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A number of years ago, I was at an organizational development workshop where we brought in an improvisational comedy troupe to give us some training on improv techniques.  I remember is being very cool and somewhat freeing, as the whole thing was about “Yes, and..”, which is sort of the equivalent of playing verbal hacky sack.  You’re trying to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible, and it’s very light hearted.  Also, you have to be very present about where you are and what’s going on, as you don’t know what’s going to come next and be ready.

As I have been doing my own personal development (as well as professional development) work, I’ve noticed that this concept can help you in all sorts of areas.  One thing that I’ve said over and over is that I’m a firm believer in reality.  I wish I were six feet tall, but I’m not, so what can I do with what I’ve got.  I’m not going to be 25 again, so how can I be the best middle aged man I can be.  You can’t deny what’s here, but it’s best to play with what you’ve got. It’s also accepting the personal power that you have within the situation.  You are powerful if you have control over your own actions in the moment, and don’t give them away to others.

I was thrilled when I found the YouTube video of Jane Lynch‘s Address at the Smith College 2012 Commencement.  In this, she expands on the topic of “Yes, and..” to state that we have to accept what we’ve got, and see what creative opportunities we can do with.  I invite you to watch the video and see how you can think about including more spontaneity and possibility in your life.

So, when was the last time you said “Yes, and..”?

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“A Tale from the Decameron,” by John William Waterhouse, 1916

One of the things that I’m always talking about is the need to be a story teller in your job search.  You always have to retell the stories of your past accomplishment, experiences, and adventures in the working world to people who weren’t there.  Otherwise, they would already know you and wouldn’t have to ask!

There are many ways to tell a story, and in the job search, it will come out in certain ways: in your resume, your cover letter, the interview, your tweets, your online portfolio, your Facebook wall, when I google your name, what someone else tells me about you, etc.  The thing is that you need to know your stories first before you know which format to put them in.  I find that a great number of my clients want me to help them with their resumes, but they don’t know what stories to tell.  As I see it, there are three levels of the story of you:

  1. You in Your Essence: On the highest possible level, who do you say you are, and what do you want people to think of you.  You can think of this in some way to be in line with your vision of yourself, but it could manifest itself in many ways.
  2. You in the Roles of Your Life: You as a college student is different from you in your current job.  You have the story of you in each of your jobs, in every volunteer leadership role, and you as the captain of your middle school basketball team. How do you want to be known in each of these?
  3. You in the Projects You’ve Accomplished: Within each of your roles, you done some projects.  Those projects might have been big (running a convention) or small (writing a press release) but they were all projects that had a beginning, middle, and an end.  These are the stories that are easy enough to tell and get your point across about how you can help others.

What I’ve found is that many people are trying to tell a story about them at their essence (I’m great! I have great skills!), but it’s so vague that it doesn’t come across as meaningful, interesting or compelling. It’s really only in the stories about the projects you’ve accomplished that you can really make an impression.  They build up to the areas of your essence and your roles. (For thoughts about how to tell your story, check out my post about Fairy Tales and telling your story.)

Granted, you will tell your stories differently depending on the audience, but that’s an entirely differently blog post.

So, do you know who you want to tell your stories to, and what stories you want to tell?

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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