Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Narratives are Huge in Career Development

Are narratives one of the few essential ways that people understand events and the world in general? I suspect so. Even weather reports sound like stories to me—how about you?

As career developers we can make effective use of this very human characteristic in three places in our work that I can think of at this moment:

  1. Sometimes we can get the parties to a conflict to begin to find a resolution to their problem by giving their understandings of the conflict as stories. There is something about doing this that makes problem solving easier. Later, when a resolution has been found, presenting it in terms of a story will often expose imperfections in it and areas to be further enhanced.
  2. How often do we, as career developers, coach job seekers whose résumés are written as if they were job descriptions? Yet how few of these same people would boast to their friends in those same terms? Of course they wouldn't! Job seekers tell stories when they want to highlight their conquests at work. What we do as coaches is to point out that these stories belong in their résumés.
  3. We want clients to know that they have futures, and a future is a story. The only person who can know what the story should be is the client himself. Our task is to help them to tell those stories.
As a matter of fact, a case can be made for revamping job finding clubs and similar group exercises to incorporate instruction about storytelling for participants as well as the underlying Skinnerian reinforcement to encourage networking and other proven job-finding behaviours.