Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Be The Hero...

Original Post on my Tuesday column on

All stories that we hear are basically the same three act structure, so there is no reason that the interview stories that we are used to hearing or telling should not come in the same three acts:

* Act 1 is the story of the protagonist.
* Act 2 is the story of the barriers/challenges.
* Act 3 is the story of the achievement of the goal.

For the past two weeks we have been exploring how you can get the best attention by being able to tell the “story of you” in the most compelling and unique way so that an interviewer/recruiter walks away with her/his own story to tell about you. As a long time talent recruiter the ones who got the job were the ones where I could sit with a hiring manager and say, “you gotta hear the story of this person.” If I was excited about telling their story to someone else the chances of their getting hired went up exponentially.

Last week we discussed six mini-plots about you that you should have prepared and are ready to go. Have you gotten those down on a piece of paper yet? If not, take the time to do so. Once that is done, then you can wrap those together to create you as the protagonist in the story of your career and you. What makes a protagonist interesting is that we gain just enough detail that offers insights into that person’s history or motivation.

When you think about how you describe yourself when asked, what are those elements of you that are unique and interesting that have propelled your career and the decisions you have made to this point? I typically cringe when I hear, “I was born….”, but many times there is something right there that is the catalyst that creates the story arc of someone very interesting. Without doubt, my interests, goals and overall career have been significantly shaped by the fact that my Father was a radio disc jockey when I was born and did radio, TV and theater while I was growing up. And because, at least at one time, radio and TV people were interesting and intriguing to most people, I have always been able to catch the interest of an interviewer by starting the story of me with “I was born with a Father who was a radio and television personality”. Everyone has their own unique traits that can set a story in motion. Think about yours. Find those unique details that when you string them together give someone else a good picture of who you are and what makes up you. If you need help here, go back through your six mini-plots from last week and make a list of the five to 10 unique attributes of you and start working with that list to create the character that is you.

Some other traits you might want to consider in the ‘Story of You’ include:

* Overachiever
* Ambitious
* Athletic
* Well-educated
* Unique family
* Dreamer
* Entrepreneurial
* Gifted
* Listener
* Reader
* Outgoing
* Driven

Whatever the traits are that make up you, figure out what makes you the protagonist in the ‘Story of You’ and find a way to express them in a unique and interesting way that gives the listener just enough detail to catch their attention and set the story of you into motion.

Next week, we’ll discuss Act II – the Barriers in telling the ‘Story of You’.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Reality of Theater

One night last month, Thursday, October 17th, San Francisco was marking just another night of theater being performed on stages throughout the city and the Bay Area.

On this night the A.C.T. was in an extend run of full houses for the Knee High Theater’s production of Noel Cowards’ “A Brief Encounter”. This fusion piece set in England during World War II told us of unfulfilled love and escape in a tumultuous time. Next door at the Curran Theater the touring company of “RENT” with Anthony Rapp (original Mark) and Adam Pascal (original Roger) was sold out with a raucous crowd to see the La Boehme story told through Jonathon Larson’s characters of the poor, HIV/AIDs infected, starving artists of New York City. They sung of the hope of dying in dignity with others caring about their plight. Across town another war-themed show was turning away people who wanted to see the Lincoln Center Production of “South Pacific”. Another love story set in the islands of the south pacific with war raging all around them. On the other side of the Bay, Berkeley Rep was extended with standing-room-only audiences to see the rock opera; “American Idiot”. Green Day’s musical rant of anti-war, government oppression, big-government mismanagement and societal pressures caught fire and enraptured an audience for 90 minutes of non-stop push. Back in San Francisco, the A.C.T. MFA students, under the direction of Jon Moscone, Artistic Director of Cal Shakes, were presenting the play, “Naked Skin”, about women’s rights and the struggle of suffrage in the United Kingdom. This play was the first by a woman playwright to be presented on London’s National Theater’s Olivier Stage. This moving work reminded us that human rights advancement is a contemporary issue and we still have a long way to go until all are treated equally. Another of the National Theater’s productions was in town this night as well. There was a simulcast screening of their “All’s Well That Ends Well” at the AMC Kabuki film theater. On top of all of the live theater in town on this night, a few hundred people were taking in Shakespeare through the cinema screen, in an effort for the NT to build better relations with the American audience.

I know I have missed at least another half dozen to a dozen other plays that were running on this night as well. There is always much theater in our town on any given night.

But on this night the theater became reality as at the same time that curtains were rising across the Bay Area, just over in Union Square, at the St. Francis Hotel, the first sitting U.S. President to visit San Francisco in nearly a decade was speaking live. President Obama had turned out thousands of supporters to hear him update them on the issues of our time. Issues that were all around him that night in the theaters of the Bay Area; war, healthcare, human rights, the social-class divide, international relations, the economy in context of the financial crisis, and government’s role in all of this. President Obama didn’t need to look much further than the scripts and librettos of the theaters around him that night to find relevant substance for his speeches.

We go to the theater to suspend our disbelief and to experience the stories of others so we can connect and feel. We use the theater to wrestle with the issues that are our own. We sometimes find what is true reality being no further away than just on the stage before us.

On this one night in San Francisco in October of 2009, the theater was as real as it gets.