The Art of Storytelling

When you think about Career Services, words like resumé, cover letter and interview come to mind. The most essential tool, however, is your student’s narrative, which provides the foundation for a successful job search. Career advisors begin every session with some version of the question, “Tell me about yourself.” Sound easy? For many students this is a difficult question to answer. Rather than telling their story, they ask clarifying questions such as, “You mean, what’s my major? About me and my experience at Wheaton? Are you asking what I want to do after graduation?” I have engaged in these conversations with students for over a decade. Coaching students to connect the seemingly disconnected experiences in a way that shows their strengths, passions, and career ambitions is central to career advisement.

The art of telling one’s story begins with mapping experiences, interests and skills. When Assistant Director Matthew Wheeler meets students in their First Year Seminar classes, he gives them a blank sheet of paper and asks them to draw themselves in the middle surrounded by their experiences, likes and dislikes. Many begin to see academic and/or career determinants right away: a desire to be in public service, a background of assuming leadership roles, an acuity for the natural sciences or a love of the outdoors. This is where the conversation begins—as does the building of narrative.

Our touch points with students are varied. We meet individually in advising sessions. We engage them in explorative, interactive CareerLabs workshops and introduce them to alumnae/i in their work places. We ask them to share the practical experience they gained over the summer at Wheaton’s annual Internship Showcase. Nearly 200 students who received Wheaton Edge funding recently gathered to present their internship and research experiences as part of their developing narrative. Through posters and oral presentations, they shared stories of work environments they navigated, professional relationships they made, and skills they developed.

While the process of creating a student’s resumé is multi-faceted, when complete, the finished document will outline their unique story—a profile of achievement, talent and passion. Wheaton’s Career Services advisors are at the ready to help your students so they can identify and develop their stories.

If you would like to contribute to a student’s developing narrative through the posting of a job or internship at your organization, please join Wheaton’s growing career community by emailing me at [email protected].