Storytelling and the Future of Work: 5 Skills You Need to Explore
Insight Chanele McFarlane from Do Well Dress Well offers their insights on the specific skills that are in high demand in by today's employers.
There’s no question that today’s job market — and the skills we need to remain competitive — have changed dramatically and continues to change every single day. Many of us work in jobs that far different from those of our parents and grandparents — and perhaps, we’re currently in a field that we didn’t even know existed when we were growing up.
That’s definitely the case for me. With a background in digital marketing, communications and PR, I was the first in my family to pursue this career path and to be honest, it was completely accidental. In my second year of university, I applied to an internship at a marketing agency. I was called in for an interview and from my perspective, I thought that I had knocked it out the park. I waited patiently for a call back and I did eventually get a call but it wasn’t exactly the outcome I was expecting. They thought I was great but they decided to go with another candidate…because I didn’t have a Twitter account.
It was clear at that point that if I wanted to succeed in the working world, I’d need to get up to speed on this social media thing — and fast.
At the time, Twitter was still new and I just didn’t see why I needed one. I can see now that I was a little oblivious to the fact that social media was about to completely change the game. I only had a Facebook account at that point but literally right after that phone call, I signed up for Twitter and committed to gaining as much social media knowledge as I could. It was clear at that point that if I wanted to succeed in the working world, I’d need to get up to speed on this social media thing — and fast.
Thankfully, that internship rejection actually ended up being one of the best things to happen to me — as most “failures” and rejections are, in hindsight. By committing to establishing my expertise in social media, I was able to eventually land jobs quite easily — often being the youngest but most experienced social media person on the team. I was often brought in to set up social media accounts, build out content calendars and explain the social media world to my “older” coworkers. I began freelancing on the side as well to continue building my skills and I felt confident that I was set for the future…until social media skills became table stakes, of course. I know needed to diversify and upgrade my skills and it was at that point that I committed to building a career as a storyteller.
Now, I know this isn’t just the case for people like myself who work in the digital and communications space. There continues to be huge changes for people working across all different industries. This is why there is so much discussion and debate around the future of work.
What will happen to our jobs? What are the skills that we need for today, tomorrow and the future? How do we continue to keep our skills up to date so we remain competitive?
Interestingly, among all of the articles, reports and studies on the changing landscape of work, there’s one thing that remains consistent: the need for storytelling skills. Sure, technology may be “taking over” but there are a lot of things that the machines just can’t replicate and that includes storytelling.
Now, of course, to just say “storytelling” skills is a bit broad so let’s dive deeper into what specific skills within this area are in high demand for today’s job landscape:
User Experience (UX)
I share this first because having a deep understanding of your audience is the key to creating a compelling content — in any form.
According to Nielsen Norman Group, “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
Having empathy is what will allow your content to truly resonate.
This begins by doing extensive research — either primary (focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc.) or secondary (collecting existing information online) and then building out a user persona to help guide your content creation. You always want to start by putting yourself in their shoes so you can truly see things from their perspective — Who are they? Where do they work? Where do they live? What do they like? What’s most important to them? What are their pain points?
Through building your UX skills, you also develop two very important traits — curiosity and empathy. You want to be genuinely curious about the audience that you’re serving and take the time necessary to really understand them. Having empathy is what will allow your content to truly resonate as you can ensure that what you create includes what they like and solves any pain points that they have.
Did you know that most people would say that they are more terrified of public speaking than they are death?! Don’t worry, I get it — the thought of standing in front of a group of people to speak is quite anxiety-inducing but it continues to be one of the most valuable skills you can have.
After a while, you’ll realize that it’s actually not that scary.
Knowing how to command an audience and get a message across in a clear and compelling way can help you no matter what your career is. So, how do you get started as a public speaker? Start saying yes to any opportunity. Even if there’s two people in the audience and there’s no compensation, any experience you can get will help you feel more comfortable. After a while, you’ll realize that it’s actually not that scary and again, this is coming from someone who went from extreme introvert to TEDx speaker so I know it’s possible!
Of course, you can also drop by the public speaking bootcamp I’ve created with non-profit organization, Women and Color, for an intensive 2-day training to help give you the confidence and skills you need to launch your public speaking career. Check it out at bootcamp.womenandcolor.com!
I’ll be honest — I’m not really a numbers kind of girl myself but recently I’ve really appreciated the ‘data viz’ content that I’ve seen online lately and it has intrigued me to learn more. According to this Cleverism article, data visualization is “the ability to present data in a graphical or pictorial format in an attempt to help people understand its significance. Data visualization skills simply refer to the ability to identify or uncover patterns, correlations and trends etc. that are likely to go unnoticed in text-based data.”
With so much content online and people having less time to consume it, those who win the attention war are the ones who consolidate complex messages in a quick and convenient way.
Why is this an important skill? Well, there are two key reasons. First, today’s society has more data than ever before! With the rise of technology, we have so much data (often referred to as big data) and many companies just don’t know what to do with it. To be able to go through it all, uncover what’s valuable and be able to craft a story out of it is a skill that continues to be so valuable. Second, there is such a demand for people’s attention. With so much content online and people having less time to consume it, those who win the attention war are the ones who consolidate complex messages in a quick and convenient way.
Want to see data viz in action? I recently came across the work of Semmi W., a data journalist from Toronto who has created two incredible data viz stories on Beyonce and the late Nipsey Hussle on her website, Art Party. Her work has gone viral because she makes it relevant to current events and crafts it in a way that makes it very easy for anyone to understand.
Designing presentation decks
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or in the corporate world, I’m willing to bet that you spend a lot of time creating presentation decks. A deck is what we use to assist us in getting our message across with a mix of copy and visuals. However, your deck can actually take away from your message if it’s not designed in the most effective way.
Challenge yourself by coming up with a topic and then working on designing a beautiful slide deck for it.
I recently took a Multimedia Storytelling course through the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies and although it was great to work on creating storyboards, creative briefs and explore the legal implications of creative campaigns — what I enjoyed most was creating a presentation deck. For the final group project, we had to create and present a brand campaign for a beauty subscription box. I opted to take on the task of developing our deck so I could work on my skills and we ended up receiving some incredible feedback on how visually appealing it was!
Of course, the best way to get better at designing a deck is with practice! Challenge yourself by coming up with a topic and then working on designing a beautiful slide deck for it. You can use tools like Canva, Google Slides (my personal favourite!) and of course, the tried and true Microsoft PowerPoint.
According to Podcast Insights, 51% of people listen to podcasts and on average, they listen to 7 shows per week. I don’t know about you but reading statistics like that reminds me that it’s time to jump on the podcast train — and fast — to take advantage of the momentum! Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to create your own podcast but you can gain the skills required to produce one! With new podcasts being launched every single day, there is currently a high demand for podcast producers, which means if you’re looking for a side hustle, this could be something for you to seriously consider. Here are a few tasks involved in podcast production:
- Booking guests
- Creating scripts
- Recording episodes
- Editing episodes
- Developing social content for promotion
If you choose to invest your time and energy into building your skills in this area, you just may find that you’re a lot more prepared for the future of work than you realize.
As this recent report by the Brookfield Institute of Innovation + Entrepreneurship suggests, if we want to be ready for the future of work, we have to commit to being lifelong learners. “Learning has no start or end date, especially when paired with the recognition that many of the jobs of the future have not been defined yet.” Sure, we may still have some uncertainty around what the future of work truly holds for us but it’s safe to say that storytelling isn’t going anywhere. If you choose to invest your time and energy into building your skills in this area, you just may find that you’re a lot more prepared for the future of work than you realize.
Chanele McFarlane is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Do Well Dress Well. This article has been republished with permission from Do Well Dress Well.