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Still Speaking Comma, United Church of Christ

A number of years ago, the United Church of Christ started a campaign called “Still Speaking” and it was inspired by a quote by Gracie Allen, who said “Never place a period where God has placed a comma.” The concept here is that there’s a whole bunch more to be learned in this world, and those that say we’ve heard it all and the “truth has been told”, never to be challenge, are missing a lot.  I’m not a UCC member, but I always respected that church and what they were trying to do to bring a little balance to the radical evangelicals who have been telling everyone who can hear that they have the answers and people should not trust their own experiences. <off soapbox>

This idea has really struck with me in a career development sense, especially as it relates to networking and building relationships.  I like to tell my clients that they should try to have every conversation that they have with people end in a comma, not a period.  Commas signify that there will be things still to come.  Periods signify that things have ended.  The goal for all professional (as well as personal!) relationships is that there is a future to be had, and you need to keep engaged in the conversation.

This is especially true when people are looking for a job.  A common mistake that I see is that people use a lot of period-ending questions, like “Do you have a job opening?”.  Most likely, the answer will be “No” and that ends the conversation.  If instead, you asked a comma-ending question like “I’m looking to find out more about Company X.  Where would you recommend that I look, or who could I talk to who can lead me to more information?”  That type of question will keep the conversation going, as there are more options, and it can take you in many different directions.

I would say that this tactic could be more helpful in all of our conversations, as it gives some breathing room to the person being asked (no one likes to say No all the time!) and it forces the question asker to be open to information that might not be what was expected.

So, what is your best comma-ending question you’ve used?

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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?

20110913-092048.jpgAs I stated in my last post, most people don’t think about telling the stories of their lives in a compelling way that shows how what you’ve done makes a difference in the world. In this post, I’d like to give some help in how you can make your stories of your background more engaging to your target audience (You do have a target audience, right? It should be the hiring manager.)

Knowing my audience (namely you), I like to tell my stories in ways that you can relate to. As most people have had the experience of going to a movie, that’s the metaphor that I’m going to use. The job of the screenwriter is to write the story in a way that brings you in and keeps you engaged. That’s done in two ways:

First, when the movie starts, you (the viewer) are trying to figure out who the characters are, how they are related, where they are, what time period they are living in, etc. A good screenwriter supplies the CONTEXT in this first scene. It allows the viewer to relate the experiences of the characters to the viewer’s life.

  • You need to supply context of your background to the reader of your resume or the person you meet at a networking event (and especially in an interview). If you did something in a different city or in an obscure organization, you will need to supply the context so that the hiring manager will understand how what you did there relates to their needs. Easy ways to do that are with names they understand (such as “I worked in the Obama administration”. If you worked with Joe Bagadonuts and they don’t know Joe, it doesn’t help) and numbers (How many of those press releases did you write? How many people attended that event you organized?)

Second, imagine you’ve finished the movie and are walking home, and you can see the movie playing in your mind. You meet up with a friend and you tell the story again. If the screenplay was written well, you can do this.

  • You need your story to be VISUAL and REPEATABLE. Most people make their stories so boring and vague that people can’t see it. Imagine I were following you around with a video camera while you were doing your work. Would I see you “assisting the manager?”. That can mean just about anything. If you instead said that you “Compiled a report on the top 100 companies in the social media marketing field for inclusion in annual report”, that might get me to see a bit more of what you were doing.

When you start your job search, you are in charge of how you develop your character in the mind of the target audience. If you tell the story poorly, the audience will make up their own minds about who you are, and that might not be what you want them to think.

So, what story are you telling and are you the star of your own story?

I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed on three different shows over the past year where I can share my thoughts about career development and how it interacts with the other aspects of people lives, and I thought that many of you might not have heard these and would like to get a better sense of my approach. Take a listen to these and let me know if anything resonates with you!

  1. In March 2010, I was the guest speaker on the Getting Things Done Virtual Study Group (GTD-VSG) Podcast where I talked about “Utilizing GTD in Career Development“.  It was a great time with some great questions from the audience. If you don’t know anything about GTD, it’s a productivity philosophy developed by David Allen and I highly recommend it to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed and wants to get control of your life (or at least feel less anxious about it.) Listen to it directly.
  2. In December 2010, I was interviewed by Harry Faddis on “The Quest of Life” radio show out of WRPI-FM in Troy, NY, where I discussed “Connecting Your Spirit & Your Work“.  Harry asked me question about how people make decisions about where their careers are going and how you can make choices that serve you better.
  3. In January 2011, I was again a guest on The Quest of Life, and here I discussed “I Could Do Anything I Wanted If I Only Knew What It Was“. A big part of my work is helping clients with career exploration and assessments, so this was to clarify what people can do to help them get more clarity on what it is that makes them happy and how they can increase their chances of working in areas that make them happy.

Note: The workshop that I mention in the last two interviews (Finding Your Calling: Making Connection Between Spirit and Work) has been rescheduled to March 18-20, 2011, so you still have a chance to register!

I have a great time doing these interviews and am considering doing a podcast/audio/video blog to answer questions that people would have.

So, what questions would you like to ask me?

 

Sorry, I haven’t posted here lately.  I’m coming off a nasty sinus infection that kept me out of circulation for a week or so.

I had a second interview with Harry Faddis on the Quest of Life Radio Show on January 7th, 2011, entitled “I Could Do Anything I Wanted If I Only Knew What It Was“, and it was a continuation of my first podcast of “Connecting Your Spirit and Your Work“. Please listen to them and let me know what you think.

Also, the Finding Your Calling Workshop at Easton Mountain has been rescheduled to March 18-20, 2011.  If you couldn’t make it for the January date, hopefully you can make it in March!  I’ll be putting together more information shortly.

On Friday, December 17, 2010, I was interviewed by Harry Faddis on the Quest of Life Radio show out of WRPI-FM in Troy, New York.  We had a great discussion on “Connecting Your Spirit and Your Work”.  Click on the link below and hear a little bit more about how I approach the subject.

http://web.me.com/harryfaddis/qol/TheQuestOfLife/Entries/2010/12/17_Ken_Mattsson__Connecting_Your_Spirit_%26_Your_Work.html

Note: I’ll be speaking again this Friday, January 7th at 12:15 p.m. with Harry, and the subject will be “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was”.  Go to http://www.wrpi.org at 12:15 p.m. and listen in!

On Friday, December 17th at 1:00 p.m. EST, I’ll be a guest on Harry Faddis‘ Show, The Quest of Life, on WRPI Radio out of Troy, New York.  The topic for this session will be How to Connect Your Spirit and Your Work, and I’ll be talking about the following five points.

  • Listen to Your Heart: Dreams deferred come out somewhere.  We tend to life out other people’s dreams. (Family, society pressure, etc.) Need to be in a space to listen to yourself.
  • What do you need to feed your spirit?
  • Identify your Values: What are the important aspects of your professional life.
  • What role does your career play in your life?
  • Career Planning: Come up with a long range goal and work on the next steps.  Unless there is forward momentum, you’ll feel stuck.

You can listen live by going to wrpi.org at 1:00 p.m. or you can subscribe to the podcast (more information at http://www.thequestoflife.com/).  It’s a tremendous podcast which covers all aspects of queer spirituality and how we make our way in the world. The show is every Friday from 12 noon – 2 p.m. and they only play music by LGBT musicians.  Give a listen!

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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