How storytelling could transform your future

Future_Sign_ExitI recently talked to someone who was interested in making a career switch and was considering going to b-school to help her with the transition. Lucy (not her real name) said that she was thinking of applying to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and briefly described the essay questions she had to answer if she were to send in an application. That piqued my curiosity and I went to their website to do additional research.

Applicants to Stanford’s GSB have to answer three essay questions. One of the essay questions expects applicants to write about “What matters most to you and why?” while another asks applicants to choose from one of three questions that start off with “Tell us about a time…”. If the applicant is successful at telling their stories well, they will be part of a select number of people who are accepted into the program.  The  acceptance rate for the class of 2012 was only 6.8%. That intake’s median salary when they graduated? $125,000, with a median signing bonus of $20,000. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change if you have the resume, talent and know how to tell your story well.

At Dartmouth University’s Tuck School of Business, storytelling is an essential part of the school’s process to prepare their students for recruitment. During the Recruiting Kickoff event for first year students, a professor of corporate communication taught students how to strategically tell the story of their life during the interview. The article states, “If you’re successful, not only will the story be authentic and logical, it will fix your interview in the mind of the recruiter so he or she won’t forget you.”

A recent New York Times article focuses on how storytelling can help you figure out what to do with your life and also land a job. The interviewee, Karl Heiselman, is the CEO of Wolff Olins, an internal brand consulting firm. He recounts two experiences related to storytelling. In the first, he talks about how all else being equal, he’s much more apt to hire someone who can provide the right answer to the question “What’s your story?”. Storytelling becomes a filter that eliminates candidates who aren’t good cultural fits.

In the second experience, Karl recalls an influential figure from his past, a visiting professor who taught him while he was at the Rhode Island School of Design. She asked his class to, “Write a day in your life five years from now: where you live, where you work, do you have kids, and just describe your day.” That simple storytelling exercise helped empower him and shape his future.

To date, most of my posts have been about storytelling as it relates to marketing and leadership. As you can see from the examples above, storytelling can also be used for career enhancement and professional development. If you incorporate storytelling into these aspects of your life, can you imagine what your story will look like 5 years from today?

About the author

brandon hoe