Aalto University

Create your narrative

Career narrative is a tool to help you make sense of your career, deepen your self-awareness and pursue a meaningful direction. A compelling, authentic story helps clarify your values and also present and brand yourself professionally.
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Narratives play a fundamental role in our careers. They shape our understanding of what careers are like and how they should evolve. Often we are not even aware of these narratives as they influence our thinking and perceptions subconsciously.

When you are designing your career, you can use narratives as a practical tool to increase your self-awareness, adapt to changing circumstances and make value-based choices for a meaningful career.

 

 

Narrative as a design tool

Narratives serve many career design functions:

  1. Question assumptions   Our culture and media feeds us many narratives as to how we should live our lives and build our careers. Whenever you are making decisions about your next steps, it is a good idea to question assumptions and critically evaluate whether you are living by self-chosen narratives.
  2. Make sense   Careers rarely evolve linearly and according to our plans. Whenever you feel at loss or are faced with an unexpected turn of events, a narrative can help create order and connect the dots between fragemented experiences. As your career and identities continue to evolve you can use narrative to help make sense of the changes and direct your subsequent steps.
  3. Imagine the future   Whenever we are making a decision, we are basing it on some narrative of how we imagine the future to enfold. We do x, as we expect and value y. Often we rely on the narratives most readily availabe to us but you can also consciously imagine several alternative futures no matter how crazy they may seem. This will help you broaden your options and see alternative routes.
  4. Create meaning & purpose   Narrative always involves an evaluation of what is considered normal, good or right. When it comes to careers, narratives describe and prescribe plots to live by and purposes to strive for (progress, expertise, status, money, calling etc). These plots and purposes express your values and provide meaning to your experiences over time.
  5. Present & brand   When you have considered and created your own inner narrative it becomes easier to present yourself to others. The narrative you communicate to others does not remain the same as you need to connect the dots to different purposes in different situations. Your cover letter, resume or portofolio should always tell your authentic story but targeted to a specific audience. 

We can only go as far as our narratives will take us

David Drake

Reflection

Think about your past life and career.

  1. List all the important events and factors that have brought you to this moment (turning points, experiences, decisions, people, insights etc.)
  2. Write a short narrative about your past career
  3. Consider what might be the plot of your career. Do you see an expected path or rather a driving value?
  4. Share you story with a mentor or a friend

Read more

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Career Design Lab Blog (external link)

Narratives provide recipes for careers, but we rarely consider whether the cake is worth eating.

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Design a Meaningful Career (external link)

In this self-paced online course you will learn how to shape your career as you go in the radically changing world of work.

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