Mommy, Daddy, Tell Me a Story! – Spinning a Good Yarn with Your College Application, Resume, Cover Letter and Professional Bio
When we were kids, we all loved stories. Well guess what? That hasn’t changed! I recently read the article Storytelling an Effective Training Method! and it sparked me to write this post.
The fact is, we all love a good story. Admissions committees love good stories. Hiring managers love good stories. Customers and clients love good stories. Always remember: the person you’re writing for is a human being! How do you get another human being to read your document? Spin a good yarn!
If you’re applying to college, tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. I had a client who wrote his college application essay about teaching his sister to ride a bike. His first draft was all rosy about how great the experience was, and it did not have a compelling beginning, middle and end. He felt lost in the writing, and the essay was boring.
What ultimately made the story great was that he started at the beginning, when he was annoyed at his sister for being small and clumsy, then moved through the process of a breakthrough in becoming a teacher, and a better teacher — and finally to where he released the seat and the sister took off on her own on the bike. Victory! A great story.
In college applications, many times what makes a great story is to admit to a struggle or fault, and show how you broke through it. In a cover letter, believe it or not, you can do the same thing.
All kinds of people are saying “No one reads cover letters anymore.” Well, of course no one is reading them – because they are stilted and boring and no one can get through them! Have you ever considered that if you write a good enough story in your cover letter that it really will get read!
Do you have an example of a time when a project was failing, and you stepped in to fix it? That makes a great story! Is there an example of something you achieved that relates to the job you’re applying for? Don’t be afraid to tell these stories in your cover letters!
On your resume, too, tell as much of a story as you can in a bulleted line.
What not to write: “Assisted scientists with their research.”
What to write: “Conducted genetic, epidemiology, and behavior research on sport fish in Illinois, Canada, and the Bahamas.”
Ah, now that sounds kind of interesting!
For an example of a professional bio that tells a great story or two, see Senior Investment Analyst Bio on The Essay Expert’s website. This client reported to me that she loved her bio story so much that she kept reading it to herself after it was done!
Whatever the reason, we all love a good story. Tell one in your college and job applications. Tell one in your professional bio. If you do it well, your intended audience will keep reading… and reading… and reading.