Storytelling Lessons from the J. Peterman Catalog – Add Some Intrigue to Your Messaging

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss

In my one-on-one coaching sessions and career training workshops, I talk a LOT about storytelling. Once you start thinking of your career transition as a marketing campaign, you soon realize that you need crisp, dynamic and compelling language to share the “story” of you throughout your marketing materials {resume, cover letter, email communications, Linked In profile, etc.).

My favorite storyteller is Dr. Seuss. And the above quote captures today’s lesson…keep your answers SIMPLE! But today I want to share this lil nugget I stumbled across. It’s a simple description of a woman’s blazer from the J. Peterman Catalog:


A Dangerous Woman

I keep watching her.

We all do.

She elegantly unbuttons this unique scarf collar blazer while brushing her cards softly back to the table.

In her previous life, she was Beatriz Galindo.

In this one, she doesn’t use titles (not even the ones she’s earned). Her essays are brilliant, even in translation. Her osso bucco, the same.

Tonight, at this little casino in northern Spain (in the Palacio de los Condes), I remain a fascinated spectator as she gracefully flips over a straight flush, King high.

The men at the table smile.

Lovesick. Broke.

Scarf Collar Blazer (No. 3752). A proprietary breathable cotton blend. Ruffle scarf shawl collar has a touch of angora and polyester for softness, with knit trim and knit rosette. Self-covered dome buttons. Unlined. Rounded cutaway at front sweep.

Sexy, right? You get a clear picture of the woman that wears this jacket. A complete story in just a few simple paragraphs.

As you continue to cultivate your own story, keep this little gem in mind. Unfortunately, when we get nervous we tend to verbally vomit or get overly wordy. If you’re not clear on what’s compelling about HOW you do what you DO in your working life, how can you possibly expect to clearly articulate that to friends, at a networking event, while volunteering, in an interview, to a recruiter or hiring manager?

Great stories (regardless of length) have a beginning, middle and an end. When asked the question, “What do you do?” do you have a solid and polished 30-60 second response? If you’re in career transition and looking for a new job or your next project, you need to put some shine on this.

People want to help other people get connected, land on their feet, and get on down the road to the next best place for them. But they can’t help you if you can’t tell them the how.

Tips to help you answer, “What do you do?”:

  • What you’re currently doing (“I’m currently the marketing manager at an interactive agency here in town.”)
  • What you’d like to DO next (“I’d love to up-level into a director role…”)
  • Where you’d like to do it (“…at Great Place to Work A, Trendsetters Agency B or Freakin’ Amazing Company C with a fun culture like Zappo’s.”)
  • Something personal that shows high levels of work ethic, and speaks to your integrity & core values (“I’m also training for my first 1/2 marathon and launching a blog about digital media.”)

More very soon on how to follow up with questions to learn more about the other person’s desires and goals {so that you can help connect them} and uncover who they might know that they can possibly introduce you to.

For today just start thinking about how you can get crafty in telling a short but compelling snippet of a story in a short lil, bite-sized nugget.

Links to inspire your {personal} short story writing:
50 Stories Under 50 Words
50 Word Stories
 Elevator Pitch: 5 tips for creating a strong sales message

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