by Wendy Terwelp
“Who are we but the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and believe?”
— Scott Turow Ordinary Heroes.
In fact we sell ourselves on these stories even when they are not true are outdated unfounded and easily rewritten. And these negative stories can be tremendously detrimental to our careers.
What Do These Stories Sound Like?
I’m too… busy overqualified under-qualified old young fat thin angry shy depressed ashamed I lost my job…
I can’t because… it’s not the right time I’m not ready I won’t know anyone my childhood was terrible I have health issues I can’t afford it I’m a CEO and I don’t want to ask for help…
They… won’t let me won’t reimburse me said I couldn’t said so said it’s not in the budget said I’m too…
Do any of these phrases resonate with you?
Take a closer look at what’s impeding your progress. How real are these stories you’re selling yourself? Are they still relevant? What is the real truth? Break them down and kick these stories you’ve sold yourself to the curb.
Uncover the Truth About Your Story
One executive told me she couldn’t get advanced training because “they won’t let me.”
“What’s the real truth?” I asked her. “They won’t let me” was not the truth because I knew others at her company had earned advanced degrees.
“I don’t have the time and they won’t reimburse me” she said.
“How badly do you want it?” This particular training would benefit my client’s ultimate career goal and add leverage toward a promotion.
She thought about things for a while and said “You’re right. I really do want it. I guess I can make the time and I can write off the training on my taxes so I’m really not out that much.”
Bottom-line my client made the choice to earn the designation and through our coaching landed a promotion with a salary bump.
Our Stories and How We Believe in Them Can Hold Us Back or Drive us Forward
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
An engineer was downsized after 20+ years. It was devastating and he was angry about the situation. Additionally relatives told him he was too old and shouldn’t have his expectations too high about getting another management job at his age.
Through our coaching work he decided it was best to move forward leaving anger and resentment behind. He was less concerned than his relatives about his age and the action step he took was to see less of those relatives while in career-search mode. His new attitude and proactive approach enabled him to dive in and learn new ways to search for a new gig. He learned social media and made many connections on LinkedIn; he picked up the phone and revived his network; and he landed several interviews. As a result he could choose which offer to accept. He chose a company and role that was not only a higher-level position and salary than before but also with a global company that offered more opportunities.
Good News: We can Rewrite Our Stories
Despite what has happened to us in our past we are still here.
In How to Rewire Your Brain for Success author Geoffrey James wrote “Rather than video playback human memory is more like video editing. When you remember something you are recreating changing and re-memorizing. The memory is subject to change every time you remember it.”
That means you can edit your bad memories and strengthen your good memories. You can rewrite your stories.
Two ways to start building your new stories: keep a success journal or Me File. Start tracking your hits — both personal and professional. Track what you are thankful and grateful for each day. Some days it might be as simple as “I’m thankful I woke up today.” Other days it might be “Wow! I am so grateful I got a standing ovation after my presentation today!” Identify and document at least one hit/success and one grateful/thankful-for item each day.
Final Thoughts on Creating Your (New) Story
Work on creating your new story a story that reflects how you wish to be perceived. I’m working on my latest edition. I look forward to hearing about yours.
For more information see also these sections of Quintessential Careers:
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college career and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2014.
‘ 2014 Wendy Terwelp author speaker executive coach. Wendy Terwelp is president of Opportunity Knocks and author of Rock Your Network’. She was named one of Quintessential Careers’ Top 15 Career Masterminds and her Infoline “Jumpstart Your Job Search and Get Hired Faster” was included in the Association for Talent Development’s 2014 ASTD Best on Career Development anthology. Follow her on Twitter @wendyterwelp.