3.2 Your own career narrative
As in telling any story, you need to think about the following:
- What am I trying to say?
- What do I want to achieve?
- Which are the key parts of my story?
- Which parts might jar for this audience and be better summarised, left out or reframed?
- How far does this narrative support my next steps?
Take time to look at what your private career narrative is. Which stories are you telling yourself? Are you limiting your choices before you examine them?
Do you find yourself looking wistfully at new jobs, thinking ‘I couldn’t combine that with being a mum’ or ‘That isn’t for me’ (because you didn’t perform at your best in exams 20 years ago at a time of family crisis)?
If you’re interested in career change, one way to approach your career narrative is to complete the sentence ‘A turning point for me came when …’
For example, ‘I’ve always worked as a care assistant with elderly people, but a turning point for me came when I looked back on my experience helping out with my local youth club and realised how much I gained from that. That’s why I’m now applying for social work training.’
Examining how someone else narrates their career story can help you to identify important themes, and to explore how presenting a career narrative in different ways might provide a different perspective. Take some time to ask your family, friends and colleagues what their career stories are. As you hear how others adapt their stories, consider which bits of your career narrative you might use in different circumstances. For example:
- at a recruitment fair talking with a stranger
- in an appraisal discussing new projects with your manager
- at the pub with a trusted friend who works in an area you’d like to explore.
Activity 6 Thinking about your own career narrative
Choose a scenario where you might be sharing your career narrative, and decide who you will be sharing it with, e.g. chatting to someone at a sector networking event.
Now make a note of the key themes you want to include in that conversation. How do you want to tell that person your story?
Sometimes a short version of your career narrative is known as an elevator pitch (so-called because you have approximately the same time to present yourself as you would have in a lift going up to the top floor of a building). Keeping it brief is important as it means you will get to the point quickly and keep the attention of your listener.
Perhaps you could develop a full-length version with everything in it, and then adapt it to meet your needs in different situations.
When creating your career narrative, part of the process involves reflecting on what you’ve done and reframing it appropriately. You’ll look at these techniques in the next section.