Facts vs. a good story …

How did it get to be Monday? I’m sorry about not having a “link dump” up on Friday, but this was my elder daughter’s 16th birthday weekend, and we’ve been busy trying to make that as special as we could, given my being out of work for two and a half years. I’d tried to get that post pulled together on Friday, then on Saturday, but by the time it got to be the wee small hours of Monday morning, I figured I’d just let it slide.

Fortunately, I had a book “in the wings”, that, while not being anything about the job search per se (unless you’re looking to do an entrepreneurial start-up … this is like the “anti-” to Carol Roth’s doom & gloom The Entrepreneur Equation), but is something of a memoir of the author’s building TOMS shoes, with stories of other start-ups. Blake Mycoskie’s Start Something That Matters. This is a delightful read, with a lot of insight into what’s involved in starting a business (especially one with a social conscience).

I don’t anticipate that there is a significant percentage of folks reading this that are in the process of starting their own companies, so bringing this your attention is largely based (aside from it being a good book) on one part, “Find Your Story”. I’d read elsewhere the suggestion of putting a “story” in one’s resume, and I have been seriously considering replacing a blah-blah-blah section of mine with a paragraph relating my career arc. Without getting into too much details (the excerpts that follow come from a number of different elements), here’s some of what Mycoskie says:

It may seem counterintuitive, but because so many product claims and consumer opinions are a click away, it’s actually more, not less, difficult to base purchasing decisions on this information. Not only is there too much to sift through, but much of it is contradictory … and unless this information is presented in an emotionally compelling fashion in the first place, you’ll probably forget most of it almost immediately … “Facts are neutral until human beings add their own meaning to those facts. People make their decisions based on what the facts mean to them, not on the facts themselves. The meaning they add to facts depends on their current story … facts are not terribly useful to influencing others. People don’t need new facts – they need a new story.” … A barrage of facts is simply not as powerful as a simple well-told story … Facts are important, but the story matters. Poorly presented facts can even get in the way of the story’s impact. … “When people do remember facts, it’s almost always in context.” … Stories resonate more than facts.

I’m beginning to wonder if the “percentage” stuff that so many job “experts” insist on loading up one’s resume with (90% of which are probably pulled out of thin air … I’ve never had anything interesting that I could quantify in that way!) is like the “facts” involved in one study he details … subjects were given $5, and a fund-raising letter, the “facts” letter averaged a donation of $1.14 out of the five, while the “story” letter got more than twice that at $2.38 – oddly enough, when subjects got both letters, the donation dropped back to nearly as low as the statistics-filled one. If the dynamics of this experiment are mappable to the job search … is telling that hiring manager that I “Reduced printing costs by 15% by negotiating price differential for larger quantities.” (how boring is that?) actually reducing my likelihood of getting an interview vs. doing a story of my experiences?

Anyway, I found this fascinating as it might well throw all that “common knowledge” about resumes on its head. Sure, they’re going to want to know where you worked, but do they really need to have these inane numbers seeded through it?

Of course, there’s more details about the book over in my review, so you’ll want to click through to that to see what else I had to say about it! {Oh, for the anal governmental types – I got this book sent to me for free via the LibraryThing.com’s “Early Reviewer” program.}

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