Tell me: What’s the short version of your (working) life?

Have you ever thought about practicing how to tell someone about what you do at work?

When holding courses for foreign-born people like myself who are working in Norway, I advise them to practice and perform giving the short version of their life story.

Why the short version? Because you should be aware that when speaking with you for the first time, many natives are naturally curious about why you as newcomer came to be living/working in their country. Work on what you want to tell them in an informative, interesting – and brief – manner.

When holding courses for both newcomers and natives, I usually start out by having everyone practice telling their ‘neighbor’ – briefly – about what they do at work.

And they’re not allowed to say, ‘I’m responsible for…’ in any form.

Simply put

Why the briefly bit? Because, unfortunately, if you go on too long, you’ll lose your listener’s  attention (and interest) – it’s that simple.

But if you cut it off too short, you won’t give a good idea of what you do. You won’t give them an opportunity to ask you anything about your work or workplace – you just haven’t given them enough information scraps to collect into a question.

Unfortunate’ll part ways without having made a potentially interesting business connection.

The sound of your own voice

Back to class – gave this assignment yesterday, and the people there found it harder than they thought, or so they told me afterwards.

Not surprising – it was hard for me, too, but I found out myself through trial and error what worked for me. Is it a short robotic speech I give? Not necessarily – not if I give it with some enthusiasm in my voice and facial expression. Remembering that it’s a real person I’m speaking with, and we’re not machines.

And back to timing of the whole thing – I ask my students, What’s too short? What’s too long? Put it into seconds, minutes. What do you think you’ll need?

The time factor

They give a guess. Then do a practice round. Go way over what they thought they’d need, but realize they’re not telling their story the way they really want to –  so we do another practice round. This time a little better, and we repeat, and a little better, and so on.

Their confidence grows, and it’s great to see. They’ll need it the next time they meet someone new and the spotlight’s on them.

So that’s their story. What’s yours?

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