Career Skills

Storytelling for Designers

with Lee Andrese, Vice President of Learning and Development at AlliedUP Cooperative Inc.

Learn how to tell your story in a compelling way in order to advance your career in this tutorial.


Storytelling for Designers

with Lee Andrese

In today’s Take 5 tutorial, you’re going to learn the component nuances of telling your story in order to help advance your potential, from winning a project to getting a raise.

Big Idea, Number 1: Compelling stories lead to more opportunities.

Over the better part of 30 years, I taught people an important secret of storytelling, especially in scenarios such as job interviews, asking for a raise, or trying to win a project. The secret is that a story becomes compelling as soon as the listener realizes you might just be the one to help them solve a problem.

This leads to Best Practice, Number 1: Articulating your best results upfront will get your audience’s attention.

Once you have your audience’s attention, you’ll need to fill in the details of how you achieve the results. This is why you want to lead your story with results.

To demonstrate how this works in practice, let me tell you a true story of my own. Charlie Andrews, a senior UX designer, was making $60 an hour. He knew he should be making more and asked for my help in telling his story. After a few months, Charlie was getting $90 an hour. A year later, Charlie is now charging $250 an hour for his services.

I bet you’re wondering how Charlie got there. Let’s explore. While making $60 an hour, Charlie was helping an organization that had recently combined four very large e-commerce websites into one single website. But the problem was that the new website was seeing customers abandon the shopping cart at historically high levels, and their revenue was dropping every day. Charlie was hired to stop the bleeding, and he did.

Through research and careful testing, he discovered that the new website was revealing the shipping costs at the very end of the checkout process. This resulted in surprised customers suddenly hesitating and often abandoning their purchases. Charlie changed the process, which included revealing the shipping cost to the customer much earlier in the checkout.

This resulted in an immediate reduction in the abandonment. I asked him for specifics, and he said that he and his team reduced the abandonment by 15%, and with other UX improvements, increased revenue by $2 million — far more than the company’s original predictions. That’s pretty impressive.

When Charlie told his story to a potential client, he led with results. This is how Charlie got the $90 an hour. Today, with countless successes in his portfolio and a new way of telling his story, Charlie is earning $250 an hour. Compelling stories that show results do work.

Big Idea, Number 2: Good portfolios and resumes tell compelling stories within 30 seconds.

30 seconds is all the time your portfolio or resume gets before a decision is made about whether you’re someone who deserves a closer look. Let’s talk about how to improve your odds on getting past that review.

Best Practice, Number 2: Identify three to five of your most recent and significant works and place them first in your portfolio.

More importantly, I want you to briefly describe the role that you played, the problem that you solved, and the results that you achieved.

Big Idea, Number 3: Practice telling your story until it becomes second nature.

No one ever tells a great story without practicing first, and the stories on your resume and portfolio are no different.

Best Practice, Number 3: Get help from a trusted advisor.

Developing your story is simple, but it’s not always easy. Ask a trusted advisor to help you bring out the most important details of your story and to make your story memorable. Ideally, you’ll want somebody who has similar responsibilities as the audience you’ll be meeting with.

Best Practice, Number 4: Prepare your references.

This is very overlooked. I encourage you to not only get permission to use someone as a reference, but to coach them on what the prospective client or employer is looking for. The best way to do this is by telling your reference what stories you’ve already shared with the prospective client or hiring manager so that they can validate and build upon what you’ve said. A good reference will instill confidence in those considering working with you.

That’s it. Just remember — storytelling is critical to a designer’s career, and we encourage you to spend time practicing and telling your stories. Thank you for joining me. If you liked this Take 5 tutorial, be sure to check out the rest of the series and all the courses offered by Gymnasium.

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