What's Your Story ? - How Personal Narratives Can Help Ease Career Changes

We all construct narratives about ourselves. Among their many other uses, such self-narratives help us to define where we have come from, and help us to navigate where we might be going. Of course, the types of stories we construct can make a huge difference in how well we cope with change -- especially the types of often life-altering change that a career transition involves. Chaired Professor of Organisational Behaviour and qualified psychologist and sociologist Herminia Ibarra, together with writer and authority on storytelling Kent Lineback, concentrate on the wider significance of the psycho-dynamics behind the construction of our self-narratives in times of career transition.

by Herminia Ibarra, Kent Lineback

We all construct narratives about ourselves. Among their many other uses, such self-narratives help us to define where we have come from, and help us to navigate where we might be going. Of course, the types of stories we construct can make a huge difference in how well we cope with change -- especially the types of often life-altering change that a career transition involves. When a professional has neither quite left an old position, nor fully arrived at a new one, that person is in dire need of the ability to tell a compelling personal story to bosses, colleagues, or even friends and family members.

This helps immeasurably in boosting that individual's belief in their motives, character and overall capacity to achieve their goals, among many other things. Chaired Professor of Organisational Behaviour and qualified psychologist and sociologist Herminia Ibarra, together with writer and authority on storytelling Kent Lineback, concentrate on the wider significance of the psycho-dynamics behind the construction of our self-narratives in times of career transition.

Seldom in our lives are self-promoting and self-fulfilling stories needed more than at such junctures. But even the most successful and insightful of people can routinely undermine their own cause by failing to be engaging. Too often, they end up coming across as unconfident or wishy-washy at one extreme, or pompous and overbearing on the other. Either situation will likely result in a failure to inspire trust, empathy or confidence from others when these are most needed. "Without a story", the authors argue, "there [is] no context to render career facts meaningful, no promise of a third act in which achieving a goal (getting a job, for instance) would resolve the drama".

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