Why does story matter? | Part 1

I graduated from college right smack in the middle of the recession...

It was a time when NO ONE was hiring and definitely a time when no one was hiring an inexperienced, idealistic marketing school graduate with a less than stellar GPA and no impressive accolades to speak of. 

I applied for hundreds and hundreds of marketing ("sales") positions. I would sometimes make it to the second or third interview before it would become wildly obvious that I had no idea what I was talking about.

I had no idea what I stood for and that was the metaphorical face tattoo that each potential employer was staring at while I sat nervously piecing together all the buzzwords I could remember from my business classes. 

About 6 months in, it became clear that I would need to start looking elsewhere if I wanted to continue living in an actual home and eating actual food.  So, I applied for a job as a salesperson at Nordstrom. I didn't know a thing about selling fancy clothes, but I knew that I loved fashion and the manager seemed to be enjoying talking to me, which was new. 

I walked out of the interview and sat in my car and cried. My sparkly, perfectly planned out career sitting in a heap at my feet. 

On the way home, my phone rang. 

"Kat? This is Angela from Nordstrom. I'd like to invite you to be a part of our team."

The first few weeks at Nordstrom were brutal. My paycheck was comprised entirely of commissions and whenever a customer would take us up on our generous return policy, it would come out of my next check. Nordstrom also had a ranking system for each salesperson that was updated every 2 weeks and posted for everyone to see. The scale was from 1 (worst of the worst) to 4 (amazing sales unicorn). If you were a 2 or below for more than 2 cycles, you were given a warning. The next time... you were out. 

Needless to say, the pressure was crippling. If you weren't careful, you would start showing up to work already resenting the customers you hadn't even met yet. 

My anxiety was resurfacing with a vengence and I had to figure out a way to keep going and make my numbers without killing myself. 

I sat in a coffee shop one afternoon and sipped my tea while I people-watched.

A question came into my mind:

What's the impact I want to make at this job? 

To make every woman that walks in feel beautiful. 

I decided to show up to work the next morning with the sole mission of making every woman I talked to feel beautiful. 

It was my best day of work yet. 

Not only did I walk out energized, I had far exceeded my $1,500 sales goal for the day. I had sold $3,650 in 5 hours. 

At home I reflected on the day. I could remember exactly who I had helped, what their story was, and how happy they looked when they walked out of the store. I had managed to make my story about contributing to theirs and there was magic in that approach. 

Each day, I walked into work with this mission, and each day, I made women feel beautiful. 

A growing list of women would return to work with me personally and, occasionally, call just to talk. They started putting my picture up in the employee break rooms with signs that said, "Kat is on her way to breaking the store record of being in the '4' sales group for over 26 weeks in a row". 

By the end of the year, I had sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of clothes and was awarded the Top Salesperson in my Region (or 'Top Pacesetter' as they called it). 

The way I looked at it, I had made thousands of women feel beautiful. That was my story. 

This is only one example of how story has the power to make or break us. Part 2 (coming tomorrow), we'll break down the importance of story and introduce you to, what we like to call, the Story Engine.

See you there!