Why you need to tell your story better to go from looking for a job to finding work that fulfills you
23 Jan 2013
How you tell your story puts conditions on what you can be and do. Not just because of what others understand about you, but, above all, because it will give shape to your aspirations, to the scope of your actions, and to your interpretation of reality.
In the context of the financial crisis, and with a frightening outlook for unemployment, it may seem strange that in ner group, we’re discussing alternative criteria and messages to select people in new and old projects. In Las Indias, we’re coming out of a good debate which, aside from taking us to unsuspected places (like every authentic conversation), also resulted in practices and products, which, like always in this tribe, we’re first testing “in the flesh.”
Yesterday, we saw a few dozen answers to one of our calls. Resumes and questionnaires, basically. Several things caught my attention and I can’t resist sharing them:
- Most declared shamelessly that their ideal work model was that of functionary.
- All of them detailed all manner of courses, but practically none had shared an autonomous task, those who had studied information science seemed to be unaware that they can colaborate or do projects in free software without being hired by anyone, those in international relations seemed to be unaware of the existence of NGOs or citizen initiatives, those who emphasized languages hadn’t translated anything on their own, almost none had a blog or a simple Twitter account — if they did, they didn’t tell us — only Facebook and LinkedIn appeared on the sheets. What’s more, if the CVs are to be believed, nobody had learned anything on their own! Everything was taught to them at such-and-such a course or institution.
- Almost all are young people who come from jobs that pay less than €1000 a month, but practically every one put their “optimum,” that is, the salary that they would consider adequate to feel comfortable, above €2000.
What can we read in in these stories?
How to interpret all this? Surely many of you will think that points one and three are there “to see what gets through,” and two, because no one would share their blog or their life with a possible employer. And others might respond, “what part of curriculum vitae did you not understand?”
But put the pieces together, and the message is bleak: they describe themselves as young people who haven’t done anything or learned anything by themselves — so, they must not be very passionate about anything — but they expect to earn more than us and do a job that’s always the same with fixed hours (like a functionary). To put it another way: we create jobs with strenuous efforts for people who, in reality, are offering to let us work for them, as they take home a stable income, without contributing or committing too much. In that case, we’re better off not hiring anyone, because the work hours they put in (and from what we’ve seen, they don’t seem to be willing to commit to more than putting in their hours) would likely not make up for the frustration we Indianos would face if we accepted this arrangement — because we’d become second-class workers on a project we ourselves created.
The truth is: I don’t believe it. I refuse to think that’s how it is… but that’s what comes across with those CVs…
Why tell your story better?
Stories are crucial. We live in stories, and stories are what set the borders of what’s possible and determine our horizons as well as our expectations of others. Yesterday, Manuel commented at the table that this is even more radically true than we Indianos usually say, as can be seen in the results of using a world map of news events that was made by others, and not just in the limits imposed by fashionable collective myths.
In short: how you tell your story sets the conditions on what you can be and do. Not just because of what others understand about you, but, above all, because it will give shape to your aspirations, to the scope of your actions, and to your interpretation of reality.
How can you tell your story better?
Everyone chooses, throughout their life, the tales in which they appear. As in so many things, if you don’t choose one, if you don’t give it shape, your life will end up being shaped as part of other people’s tales and myths. Do you want to start being the author of the tale you live in? Starts thinking of yourself and telling your story with “I think” and “I do.” Ask yourself some basic things:
- What gives meaning to work in my life? It may be an “important cause,” a lifestyle, your family, or simply your passion for learning certain kinds of things. Businesses and projects are creators of values: they contain “social meaning, a work ethic, and a worldview». What’s more, “the objects that are offered on the market are carriers of worlds, of social projects and moral views.” If you want to work on something that makes you feel good with people you can learn from, you have to compare your own values with those of the project… and look beyond “getting a job.”
- What have I done on my own? Did you participate in a student association, in a movement? Don’t be ashamed to say which one. During the eighties, when conflict and social violence raged in Japan and Korea, many big Japanese businesses gave preferential access to internal careers to students who had been part of radical movements. They found that, independent of ideas, they demonstrated a capacity for commitment and courage.And there’s no need to get dramatic. Did you create something or participate with others in doing so? Do you organize family get-togethers, or Christmas dinners for your friends? Did you backpack to God-knows-where? Did you create free software? Did you start a blog, did you write a pamphlet or a brochure? Did you create a fanzine? Did you organize actions? Even if it seems strange, it’s the kind of feelings you experienced and the abilities you learned doing what you were passionate about with the people you love that can make the difference betwee an occupation and something that creates meaning for you. And even if it seems even more incredible, there are those of us who are looking for exactly that: not people who fit in one function, in one task, but people who, by taking on the little and big everyday challenges, grow together.
- How did I learn to be self-taught? Techniques, methodologies, and procedures change. The capacity to learn and solve things is much more valuable. Talk about your studies — formal, informal, and also what you’ve studied and learned on your own — from that viewpoint. Did you decide one day you wanted to learn to cook, code HTML, do origami or whatever it might be, and did you go on the Internet to find a manual, and did you take your first steps based on trial and error until you could do what you wanted at an acceptable level? From my point of view, anyone with half a brain would value that much more than a Master’s where, if they did it well, the professors made it easy for you to discover things.
After answering the questions above, a different story about you will surely emerge. Perhaps it will be less “formal” than on the oficial CV, but doubtlessly more autonomous, with more to contribute, and with a much more expansive horizon. It will surely be the tale of someone much more attractive to those who, instead of offering employment, are looking for people to do things with, to learn with, and to build something in which we recognize each other as peers.