Even though the world may have paused a bit on us all right now, this will pass and you’ll need to be ready once it does. One of the key issues I share in my Career Readiness programs to college seniors and graduate students is the importance of your learning to become a terrific storyteller. And now more than ever, you may find yourself in a great place to develop that memorable story.
A potential employer, a business partner, an investor in your startup–they all need to feel a sense of trust, loyalty, and comfort that you are the right person for this team. You need to quickly build that trust and that loyalty with people you’ve literally just met. How do you accomplish this? With a heartfelt and believable message that people will remember. In the setting of an interview, the ability to tell a story about yourself or about a situation that will prove memorable to your brand is tantamount. In your quest to create Me, Incorporated, that story that everyone will remember may just be the key that unlocks your brand. It’s been shown that messages that include certain story components would be more compelling than messages that lacked the components of identifiable characters, authentic emotion, a significant moment, and specific details.
In my many talks to students, I like to finish with a story of my daughter Casey and a chance meeting with her role models Venus and Serena Williams. I tell this story because you will all soon find out that there’s much more to this game of life you’re about to enter than just getting a job and establishing yourself and reaching certain pinnacles of success. The key to satisfaction in this game is sharing the gift that all of you have but don’t yet realize you have it. Here’s that story that I’m betting you won’t soon forget:
9 years ago my daughter Casey got into college to play tennis. I was friends with tennis star Andy Roddick’s agent, and he had gotten Casey and me coaches passes to the Madrid Tennis Open. The Madrid Open is a clay court tournament that leads into The French Open and all of the famous men and women tennis stars you’d recognize play there. If you’ve ever been to Spain though, you know that in Barcelona everyone speaks English–but in Madrid, nobody speaks a lick of English.
The day before the tournament starts, Casey and I decide to go to the venue and see just how close our passes will get us. We show up in the Players Registration area which was a vast indoor lobby with high ceilings that seemed to go on forever. There were 2 identical staircases in the middle of that ballroom that led up to the players’ lockers, massage area, and lounges. And there was literally nobody around.
But off in the corner I spotted someone I recognized: it was Richard Williams–Venus and Serena’s dad (and their coach at the time). We didn’t know Richard but they were from LA and so were we–and here we are in Madrid, Spain…
“Richard, I’m Marc Reede from Los Angeles. This is my daughter Casey–and Casey just got into college to play tennis. Your daughters were the reason she took up the sport in the first place and they’re her role models.”
“Hang on one second,” Richard says. And at the top of his voice he calls “Venus!! Serena!!“
Just then, 2 figures show up at the top of the staircase. “Yes, Daddy?” “Girls come down here–I want you to meet someone.”
But the story doesn’t end there.
The next night Venus has her opening round match on the large indoor stadium court against a girl from Madrid. And ain’t nobody in that stadium rooting for Venus–except us. And we’re sitting up in the rafters. “Great shot!” “Nice serve!” we scream from up high. Venus beats the girl in straight sets–and you know how when a professional tennis match ends, the players zip up their bags and go off to the side exit? Casey knew this, and as the crowds were leaving the stadium, Casey ran down the stairs against the crowds to get as close as she could to her new friend to congratulate her.
I’m still in my seat focused on Venus now putting her stuff together and zipping up her bag when Venus looks up at me and mouths the words “WHERE’S CASEY?” I was floored.
Not being able to see Casey, I point to the place I know she went and I watch as Venus gets up and run over that way.
A few minutes go by. Seemed like forever. And then I see Casey coming up the stairs with tears flowing down her face. She’s carrying Venus’ tournament towel–a souvenir that you cannot buy.
As we are leaving the stadium I once again see Richard Williams in the lobby area of the stadium. I tell him what just happened. Richard takes Casey and me in a group hug and he says this: “Marc, if you had told me that my daughter just played a great match, I would have said Thanks so much–but that’s her job and that’s why she practices so hard each and every day. But (he says) I taught my girls a long time ago to touch ONE PERSON in life, show them you care, share your gift,..and just look what happens.“