Do you struggle to communicate your career achievements in a way that both engages your listeners and feels good to to you? Read below to learn the benefits of story structure for overcoming common career communication challenges.
Common Challenges of Career Communication
Doing excellent work doesn’t mean that it’s easy to talk about your career accomplishments. Your understanding of what you contribute is not enough. You need to be able to communicate it to others.
This can be challenging when you are changing direction in your career. The good news is that using story structure makes it easier to overcome some of the most common career communication challenges.
Three challenges that career changers face are:
- How to choose the right information and level of detail for your audience
- How to communicate with people who may not “get it” because they don’t share your expertise
- How to stand out from others with similar qualifications and experience
Using a career story framework can help with these challenges by making it easier to:
- Organize you information more effectively
- Engage with others
- Differentiate yourself from other candidates with similar credentials
1. Use Story Structure to Organize Information about your Career Accomplishments
Unless you are right at the beginning of your career, it’s likely that you have more information that you need for both your written career documents, such as your resume or CV and social media profiles, and for your career-related conversations. So how do you choose what to write or say? Story structure provides you with an already-proven organizing framework.
Findings from recent brain research confirm what has been known for centuries. Humans are wired for story. We’ve used story to communicate and influence since pre-literate times. Some researchers have coined the term the “storytelling brain” to describe the power of story to enhance communication.
Modern career communication requires us to get the message across in more succinct formats. Using story structure to share your career accomplishments makes it easier to do so while still being influential. It is flexible enough to use in different contexts.
2. Use Story to Engage your Audience (even when they’re outside your career field)
A second common challenge, particularly for career changers, is that you need to communicate with people who, because they don’t share your expertise, may not “get it.” To be effective, you need to get your message across in a meaningful way.
Say, you’re a researcher working on developing new cancer treatments. Most people won’t understand the intricacies of your work. But story structure gives you the opportunity to add the details that connect your work to something familiar when you’re sharing career accomplishments with non-experts.
For example, journalists report on events by telling more than just the facts. They often include the story of one person’s experience. Fundraisers for famine relief tell us about the difference our donation would make to one particular child. They use the power of story to communicate at both emotional and intellectual levels.
Applying story structure enables you to bridge different worlds. It helps you to discover ways to connect with your audience that enable listeners to engage emotionally as well as intellectually.
3. Tell Career Stories to Stand Out from Other Candidates (with similar competencies)
A third career communication challenge is differentiating yourself from candidates who also satisfy the job requirements. A career story is a great way to stand out if, for example, the factual information about your career looks similar “on paper” to other applicants.
Stories are more powerful because they allow you to “show,” rather than just “tell.” What you say is more memorable if you communicate it through a specific event from your own unique experience. For instance, it’s easy to say you have leadership skills. But it’s much more credible if you share a story about a specific time when you demonstrated these skills and the difference it made.
Using story structure strengthens your ability to communicate your career accomplishments. This approach also provides opportunities to communicate less tangible information, such as the personal qualities that influence how you work and are important for cultural fit.
In today’s ever-changing work environments even hard-earned skills may have a short life cycle. But through career stories, you can share not only your skills and abilities, but also the personal qualities and values that make a difference. Next time, we will consider some of the story frameworks that have been used successfully by career changers and job seekers so that you can adapt them for your own use.
Jennifer Bradley helps professionals get unstuck and move forward in their career and work life. She offers individual coaching and consulting, leads workshops, and writes about personal and professional transitions.