#CIPDMAP15 My Beautiful Career

My second seminar choice is My Beautiful Career – messing around with narratives of our careers with Prof John Arnold of the School of Business and Economics at Loughborough Uni.  With a surprising foray into standup comedy!

How do we tell the story or our career? How could we tell it differently or better?  To both ourselves and to others.  Do we have different versions for different audiences?  And how might we tell it instead?

First career and story –

Career : “The evolving sequence of a person’s work experience over time” (Arthur et al, 1989) – John likes this one because there’s no assumption about upward promotions.

It’s the life story that holds together and provides a biographical bridge to cross form one job to the next (Not exact quote) Savickas, 2009.

We use our career stories for many uses e.g. to get a new job but also to impress friends, family, a new date.

John asking audience to wok in pairs, 1 person spend 5 mins to tell the story of their career – objective facts & subjective emotional / motivational aspects, don’t get hung up on details of dates, etc.  Listener – keep time and listen really well, suspend judgement, keep quiet.  Their ‘hearing’ of the story will be used later…  Then swap.  Lots of buzz in the room.  Seeing lots of great listening too!  Lots of matching, mirroring, nodding.  Only a couple with their hands over their mouths – watch this one, you might unintentionally be sending the message of ‘stop talking!’

Now John’s going to introduce some different ways we can think about our career.  Features of a successful story?  As for everything, that’s context-specific.

His 9 points ofr success –

1. Authentic

2. Credible

3. Agentic (the person telling it is actve in it!)

4. Situations and opportunities required you to take action

5. Obstacles and tribulations

6. Key turning points

7. Triumphant success or tragic failure

8. A lead charcter we can warm to

9. Flexibility so it can be told in different ways for different reasons/contexts.

Now inviting pairs to get together again to discuss how evident those features were in the story they heard a few mins ago.  What was there, what wasn’t, what could there be more of?

John’s heard from people’s conversations that some great feedback and collaborating on option and opportunities.

Moving that forward now is to use metaphor to enable our stories to be more memorable – our brains connect to images and emotions and these things stick in our heads – worlds and lists of bullet points don’t.  Engage others in your stories  using –

Spatial – pyramids, ladders, climbing frames

Journey – paths, roads, in the driving or back seat

Horticultural – growing, flowering, blossoming and then pruned / discarded

Competition – rat races, uphill struggles, tournaments, fast tracks

Aquatics – charting progress, rocking the boat, treading water, stuck on rocks

Linked to this there are cultural career scripts that convey our story simply and say a lot in a few words – Rags to riches, The hero who saves the day, The stranger in town, Like a farce, Local boy/girl made good.

Watch out using ‘luck’ too much in your career story – can suggest you believe you have no control over your own life and are possibly a bit incapable.  Or could suggest you’re humble bragging and come across as big headed.

Everyone talking about their career and where metaphor could be used.

Final word – shameless plug – get in touch with Loughborough Uni School of Business & Economics for leadership development programmes.

This post has been live-blogged from #CIPDMAP15.  I’ve done my best to represent the content accurately and fairly but some errors may exist.  Most of it is the speakers’ content and I aim to show the bits that are my opinion.


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