Use stories to demonstrate skills

A light bulb representing a moment of understanding through storiesStories are a great way to demonstrate what you know or understand.

Telling a story helps you to connect with other people too, showing what you can bring to the party.

A story from my past

Years ago when I was working at Cancer Research UK we produced a staff magazine which went out in hard copy once a month to all 3,500 of our employees. One day during our regular feedback gathering, it became apparent that no-one at one of our research sites was reading the magazine.

Although the magazine didn’t have 100% engagement and there were pockets of people who weren’t reading it, it was striking that there was a single location where no-one at all was bothering to even take a look.

What’s going on?

So I duly toddled off to the site in question to dig a bit deeper and find out what was going on. Within 20 minutes of my arrival I was chatting to an administrator in one of the offices.

She said, “Oh no. no-one reads Target here, it’s poor quality!”

Only slightly taken aback by her directness – in my experience, people are never shy about telling you what they think about internal communication when you ask them – I encouraged her to tell me more.

“There was once an interview with a team manager,” she explained. “He said that his team were split roughly in half, across two areas of work. Things cannot be split roughly in half, they are either in half or they’re not.” She finished triumphantly:

“So you see, the magazine is rubbish!”

There, laid out clearly and simply, was a perfect example of the researchers’ mindset and the impact it can have. Language matters, especially in academic circles.

No-one in this story was being funny or trying to be difficult; as far as they were concerned, the poor quality of the magazine was fact, as demonstrated by one word in one article.

Understanding people

Whenever I tell this tale to people who work in Higher Education institutions, they always smile wryly and give me an understanding nod. People without that experience are usually baffled by the calm way I recount it.

This story is a fantastic way for me to demonstrate both my understanding of the academic environment and my response to it. I too smile wryly, but also respect the rights and reasons that individuals working in that sector might end up feeling that way.

This understanding and respect are important for working with academic and research audiences and not fighting against them.

For potential clients who are looking for help with communication in a research environment, it’s important to them to ensure that I am going to ‘get’ the audience and not run off the minute things become ‘quirky’. I have definitely been able to take on projects thanks to the qualities in me that this story demonstrates.

We all have tales that illustrate something about ourselves and how we work. Factual details have their place, but stories have an emotive power all their own.

What stories can you tell about your work? Comment below or message me with the details.

Until next time

Leave a comment