Skip to main content
SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor

Open book
We carry around all sorts of stories about ourselves, often without even knowing it.

I and the whole staff at work attended a training last week on a "narrative" method of career counselling led by Mark Franklin, the practice leader of a company called Career Cycles.  It's inspired me to write a bit about narrative therapy in general, especially as it applies to career development.  You might be wondering what I mean by the word narrative - essentially narrative therapy is about looking at the stories we tell about our lives and how we can examine those stories (or narratives, so to speak) from different angles in order to move forward constructively into our lives' next chapters.  That's a pretty big oversimplification of a theory that's actually incredibly complex, but in the end I think it captures the biggest component - the stories.

Narrative therapy comes from an epistomology (how we know things) that can be referred to as postmodern.  Under postmodernism, it's assumed that knowledge is co-constructed and that there is essentially no one, absolutely "correct" truth (because everyone will construct their own truths).  This is in stark contrast to positivism, which states that knowledge can be measured, quantified, and is absolute (i.e. the traditional scientific method).  I've briefly discussed this in a past entry about lifelines.

If "truth" is relative, and the nature of something depends on the lens with which we look at it (or, a la quantum physics, whether we look at it), the stories we tell about ourselves, to ourselves, are open to re-authoring.  Picture your life as a word processing document, and you can go back and change the way that the chapters of your life are written.

Now, I'm not talking about changing your memory, removing negative events from your life, or anything like that.  The issue here is in the analysis of your life.  It's in the way you tell your story, and the patterns that emerge, and how those ultimately converge to form something called an identity.

The reason that there's a lot of utility with something like this in regards to people's careers is that your career is such a big part of your identity.  It's something that people think long and hard about, spend years training for, and form their lives around.  When you're in school thinking about what you want to do after you graduate, you're telling yourself stories about what kind of person you are, and imagining the unwritten chapters of your life.  Out of the stories students tell themselves, fuzzy possibilities often begin to emerge, while others become barred off from all access.

The big picture here is that where you've been is connected to where you're going.  How you interpret where you've been affects how you view yourself and often the possibilities (or lack thereof) that seem open moving forward.  To give an arbitrary example, if your narrative is that you are a terrible people-person, you're unlikely to see yourself in a career involving close work with lots of people.  The issue that is of interest is how you've constructed that initial, limiting narrative of being a terrible people-person.  It could be that having a look at the chapters of your life in which that story started being told could open up some new avenues of interpretation, which could lead to an opening up of possibilities you see for yourself in the future.

Often the hardest part of this work is in discovering those stories in the first place.  We carry around all sorts of stories about ourselves, often without even knowing it.  Looking back at your life can give you a window into those narratives.

So, what stories do you tell yourself about yourself?  Where do those stories start?  How can they be told differently?

SFU Health and Counselling Services
Registered Clinical Counsellor
David Lindskoog is a Registered Clinical Counsellor at Health & Counselling who used to work as a Career Advisor with Career Services. David is passionate about suicide prevention, social justice, career and professional development concerns, and the use of role-playing games in therapy. Check out his group: Dungeons & Worry Dragons. While you're here, check out Dave's Diary! It is an ongoing series of journal entries touching on various aspects related to careers and well-being. Want to hear Dave's thoughts on a particular topic?  Send him an email, and he'll do his best to include it in his next post!  
visibility  201
Jun 10, 2011

You Might Like These... Volunteering, Community Engagement, Professional Development, Personal Development, Life Balance

STC West Coast
Alumnus Profile: How Crystal Kwon Advanced Her Career Through Volunteerism

Students often overlook one important benefit of volunteerism. While students realize that scholarships and bursaries usually require community engagement, they often forget that volunteerism can also give you the edge you need after you finish your degree.

Kyle and volunteers
Kyle Jung: Expand Your Horizons through Volunteering

Did you know that you can make a difference through volunteering, as well as discovering your passions and career goals? These are just some of the benefits of volunteering, according to Kyle Jung, a 5th-year SIAT student who is also the Vice President of Operations, Interactive Arts & Technology Student Union (IATSU) and the SFSS Forum Representative.

Jordan Robinson: Volunteer, Learn & Have Fun!

Do you want to improve your writing and communications skills? Do you want to meet other SFU students? If you answered “yes” to any of the two questions, becoming a peer educator may just be right for you! Let Jordan Robinson, a 4th-year Sociology student, tell you what valuable skills and experiences.

You Might Like These... Co-operative Education

Person standing in the sunset holding up the sun.
Working for the Sun: 3 Tips for a Strong Interview

The day before an interview tends to be the most anxiety-inducing, especially as a Co-op student. Maybe it’s because you really want that specific position, have little professional experience or generally have social anxiety in new and uncomfortable situations. With a little reflection on my interview process, I came up with three tips to hopefully calm your nerves before, during and after your next interview.

Dear Younger Self: Never Give Away Your Power.

Taking steps to prioritize your financial wellness can set you up for better overall wellness.

2 people sitting at a table and looking at their laptops
How to Battle Your Imposter Syndrome at Your Job – and Win!

Welcome to your first Co-op job! You showed your stuff at your interview and wowed your future employers with your knowledge and experience. You come into your first day and that’s when you realize: you don’t know anyone at all, and everyone looks more knowledgeable and more mature than you. Keep reading to see a few tips that Claire has for you to battle your imposter syndrome and win!