What's Your Story?
Another issue that makes life stories particularly ones about discontinuity problematic: Not only does a good story require us to trust the listener, but it must also inspire the listener to trust us. To tell a life story that emphasizes such juicy elements as transformation and discontinuity is to invite questions about who we are and whether we can be trusted.
So we downplay the very things that might make our stories compelling. This was a challenge for Sam Tierman, a former corporate HR executive one of us coached through a career transition. While he was energized by the interplay between individuals and organizations, he hated the mundane, administrative aspects of the work. When he had a boss who considered HR a strategic function and who included the HR head at the executive table, he thrived. In his last job, his feelings had been obvious, and a minor problem with some personnel analysis was what did him in.
Sam, in fact, had taken this job with high hopes.
Unfortunately, that CEO left and was replaced by one who did not. As a result, Sam gave up on finding or keeping a boss he could work with in a corporate setting. As do so many frustrated executives, he decided he would prefer to work for a start-up. The problem was that he lacked, on the face of it, any of the experience or qualities wanted by people who found and fund start-ups.
It was not obvious how Sam could tell a coherent career story that would bridge the chasm between stodgy overhead departments in banks and the high-energy world of start-ups. Coherent narratives hang together in ways that feel natural and intuitive. A coherent life story is one that suggests what we all want to believe of ourselves and those we help or hire—that our lives are series of unfolding, linked events that make sense. In other words, the past is related to the present, and from that trajectory, we can glimpse our future. As important, you will also have gone far in convincing yourself.
Each of us in transition feels like that character. Coherence is the solid ground under our feet.
Charlotte Linde, a linguist who has studied the importance of coherence in life stories, makes clear in her work that coherence emerges in large part from continuity and causality. Now it becomes understandable why so many speakers in that networking meeting failed to do more than recite facts. They were trying to downplay discontinuity; to gloss over how large a professional jump they wanted to make; to avoid appearing wayward, lost, and flailing. It was a misguided strategy, for listeners are particularly sensitive to lapses of coherence in life stories.
They actually look for coherence in such stories. Failure to acknowledge a large degree of change will put off listeners and undermine their trust. As storytellers, we must deal explicitly with the magnitude of change our stories communicate. We can do that and still inspire trust if we focus on establishing continuity and causality. The following suggestions can help. We can try something, learn from the experience, and use that learning to deepen our understanding of what we want.
Many turning points can be used in this way. External reasons tend to create the impression that we simply accept our fate. You might, for instance, mention both personal and professional grounds for making a change. Obviously, these must be complementary rather than mutually exclusive or contradictory.
What's Your Story? | Ludia Games
The richer and more varied the reasons compelling you to change, the more comprehensible and acceptable that change will appear. Sam, the former HR executive, was able to cite a number of unusual projects he had worked on, which indicated, though in a big-company context, his ability to think and act entrepreneurially. Additionally, his undergraduate training in electrical engineering and his MBA in finance from a prestigious school were evidence of the technical and analytical bent preferred by the start-ups he knew.
A goal rooted in the past will serve far better than one recently conceived. Your story will need to show why you could not pursue the goal originally, but here, external causes—illness, accident, family problems, being drafted, and so on—can play a leading role. This is not to suggest that you hide anything or prevaricate. We all continually rethink and retell our own life stories. We create different versions that focus on or downplay, include or exclude, different aspects of what has happened to us. The key is to dissect those experiences and find the pieces that relate to our current goals.
A CV is an exhaustive and strictly chronological list of facts about your professional life. Build it in three parts. Second, create a bulleted list of experience highlights that clearly demonstrate your ability to do that job. Third, summarize your professional work. But these descriptions are couched in the same terms as your experience highlights. In fact, every claim in your highlights section which supports your overall goal must be supported by your job summaries. The work you have done, and the skills and interests you have developed and revealed, will point to a clear and desirable resolution: your stated goal.
Certain forms—love stories, war stories, epics—are as old as narrative itself. There are stories of being tested and stories of being punished. When it comes to describing transition and reinvention, it can be helpful to present the story in a vessel familiar to most listeners.
Of the time-honored approaches, two to consider are the maturation or coming-of-age plot and the education plot. The maturation plot was useful to Gary McCarthy, who quit his job as a strategy consultant with no idea of what he would do next. As he told his story at age 35, he looked back over his career and realized he had always responded to social pressure, bending to what others thought was the right thing for him to do. After receiving a negative performance appraisal, he saw that he needed to be his own man. In her version of events, the more she learned about the human side of enterprise, the more she realized her desire to work in and contribute to this area.
All these suggestions are ways to frame the discontinuity in a transition story and provide the coherence that will reassure listeners. Perhaps most important, we will take detailed notes on how to apply their lessons of awakening and resistance to our own lives and communities.
Felicia French D-AZ, year military veteran and first-time political candidate. Published by Sounds True. A mutual recognition of the cathartic, transformative, and socially-relevant elements of storytelling inspired close work as thinkers, writers, and women. Together, Rebecca and Lily bring over four decades of study and practice in journalism, activism, education, and wellness. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 16, Retrieved November 27, Retrieved November 14, Retrieved November 15, Retrieved November 29, Retrieved May 1, The Hollywood Reporter.
Retrieved TV by the Numbers. Retrieved October 17, Retrieved April 17, Fear the Walking Dead. I Lose Myself ".
What’s Your Story?
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