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Our Narratives and the Stories We Tell Ourselves

our personal narrative

It’s all invented. Those three words have changed the way I view the world.

A few months ago I read the book The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

The very first chapter is titled “It’s All Invented.”

It’s a great book and I would highly recommend it. However, I probably could have stopped reading after Chapter 1 because that phase was all I needed to understand. It was a game-changer for me.

The premise is so much of the world around us is and has been invented. Invented by humans. We invent things every day. We invent them as part of the narrative we tell ourselves.

We go through each day, making decisions, letting the little voice in our head beat us up over a narrative built on things that have been invented.

This narrative helps us navigate the world. It helps us take new information and frame it into something recognizable, something relatable, something that “makes sense” to us.

This narrative can only be built based on our own experiences. If our experiences have been limited, our narrative is going to be limited.

I think about this all the time now because it so closely aligns to what I feel is my purpose. To teach people what I know. To share what I’ve experienced throughout my career to help change the narrative for people who feel stuck in their careers, as well as for people who don’t necessarily feel stuck, but they see the next opportunity and it seems just out of their reach.

When you understand that our careers are invented. That every company that exists today was invented. None of them existed 300 years ago. Some careers and jobs didn’t even exist 30 years ago. Some, like App Developers, wasn’t even a real role until the iPhone was invented and released to the public in 2007. Web Developers didn’t exist before the 90’s.

A lot of times people feel stuck in their careers because of invented narratives. Narratives being told to themselves by both the candidate and the hiring manager or recruiters.

When a recruiter or hiring manager reviews your resume, they’re taking a page worth of bullets and telling themselves the story of your career. A story that is mostly inaccurate and not at all representative of your capabilities.

Often, you may see a job description for a role you’ve never done but you say to yourself “I could easily do this”. Maybe you can, but you haven’t. Because you haven’t, the person reviewing your resume simply tells themselves you can’t do it because you never have. And they move on to the next resume.

Similarly, we may box ourselves in by seeing roles we don’t qualify for and moving past them, even though they seem fun. Even though they’re something you could do. Maybe not do it perfectly right away, but after a little time and experience, you could probably excel at it.

Instead of seeing possibility, instead of seeing an opportunity to understand where we could shore up our experience and skills, we tell ourselves we’re not qualified and move on. We move on because we really want another job as soon as possible. Instead of a role that would make us happy and possibly change our outlook and life immeasurably. We sacrifice that because we’re impatient.

So, we find a role that we can laterally slide into because it’s simply with a different company, on a different team, and change can sometimes be refreshing. Until we realize, a year later, that the grass was not greener on the other side of the fence. Now we find ourselves sticking it out for another year, just so we don’t appear to be a ‘job hopper’ after only one year, we’re miserable, uninspired and not doing our best work. After another year, we’re right back where we started and the cycle repeats itself because you want out so badly…again.

Photo by Mike Tinnion on Unsplash