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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Strong Anecdotes Produce The Stickiness Factor

Not everyone tells a story well, but most everyone needs to be able to tell one for illustration purposes in the workplace.

There are different types of stories to tell and different times to tell them.

There is the story of your work and educational history that you tell in a job interview (These stories about you show up differently in the cover letter and through the resume, but they are still stories.)

Inside the interview process whether you are going to be a nurse, veterinarian or play the tuba, the person who wants to know your story is looking for something more than a rambling version of your life.  He/she is not even really looking for a faithful rendition of your story told in perfect chronological sequence. (It will be too long.)

He/she is looking for that vivid image or sound bite that reveals how committed you are to your vocation and perhaps can explain the turning point in your life when you made a decision that has brought you to the doorstep of this company and your story repeats that decision--explains:  This is it. This is what I want to do. This is why.  Interviewers want to know if you have committed yourself because they are about to make a financial commitment to you in training and perhaps a probationary period of employment. It costs money to hire people. Companies want to hire the right people, and that story you tell in the interview assures them of this.
Know that story about yourself and be ready to tell it when asked.  The person who does ask is not just making conversation.  He/she is looking for clues to your commitment, your resolve and what comes after the story you tell also tells another story:  when you make a decision, do you follow through?  What is the level of your commitment?

Stories matter in the workplace, and you will see and hear a bunch of them.

But you will tell stories too.

You will tell them after you have told the ones that helped you get a job.

You will use stories that illustrate a point you need to make where the numbers you have may not do the whole job of saying what you need to communicate. You will need to be able to tell the back story of an event as well as the story of an event itself.

You will learn how to use artwork to tell the story of what you mean, too, because artwork can indeed replace a thousand words.

You can tell a story when logic alone won't move your listener to agree with you or even entertain your point of view.  When you do that, you are moving into using a type of story referred to as having emotional appeal.

There are as many labels for stories as there are stories, and they gain their subtitles and categories by the functions they perform.

But today, we are looking at stories--workplace stories.  There are as many of them as there needs to be, but they share one major dynamic in common:  the most effective ones have a sticky quality--they stick with the reader/the listener, and they do that because they are tightly written or told, have a better than average share of action verbs, use adjectives (sparingly) that engage the senses and go some place and then stop.

Good stories, like blog entries, have a beginning and an ending.

Good bye.

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