A strong narrative can keep your message from getting lost

Gordian Knot 1
Without a strong narrative, your story can get tied up in knots.

I’ve spent my career trying to craft simple messages that tell our story to customers, prospects, investors, employees, and team members.  But I’ve struggled with creating my own personal narrative since leaving Bank of America in December.  I have a few  strong marketable skills…which has led to multiple resumes and multiple job-search objectives.  And that can cause a problem when the time comes to market myself through social media and with prospective employers: The message gets lost.

With that in mind, I took particular interest in a great column by Thomas L. Friedman in today’s New York Times.  Friedman makes a terrific distinction between communications and narratives.  Responding to people who ask what he thinks President Obama really believes, he argues that while Obama doesn’t have a communications problem — he’s certainly given many speeches laying out his positions and making the case for them — he has struggled to tie all his programs into a single narrative that reignites the passion that got him elected.

At a time when many job seekers must now meet all 15 of a posted job’s requirements to even have a shot at a second look, building that narrative becomes even more important.  I struggle between being a consultant and being open to a full-time position, fully recognizing that prospective clients worry about my commitment and potential employers assume I’m not interested in anything full time, when the truth is in the middle:  I see consulting as a bridge, as a way to demonstrate my value to a company outside the interview process.

When I started my job search a number of months ago, my elevator speech focused on my communications skills (Communications Windex!).   But I got a lot of well-meaning advice that I should also stress my negotiations skills and my ability to simplify processes.  And my ability to build execution-focused teams.  And…well, you get the idea.

But I’m becoming increasingly convinced that this is not a market where you can be all things to all people, and hope someone will make the effort to figure out which of your skills are what they need.  They have too many other resumes on their desks.

That’s Friedman’s point.  As important as the one-off discussions are, you have to have something that ties it all together or your message gets lost.  For Obama, according to Harvard professor Michael Sandel, it’s about recapturing the poetry of his campaign. 

For me, it’s finding a memorable way to combine Bulldog Simplicity with Communications Windex.

What is it for you?


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