Are you someone that doesn’t feel very confident telling your own career story? Have you practiced it and rewrote it in the car, in the shower, before you go to bed, assessing each detail to get your story just right? Does it consume too much of your time and energy and diminish your ability to be present in your life?
When you really think about it, does it feel like you’re defending yourself? When you tell that story, is there any subject in the story who would be inclined to defend themselves if they heard you tell that story? Does your voice go up? Do you get a little more animated?
On the other hand…
Have you ever been uncomfortable hearing somebody go into “dirty” details about a previous job? Did you ever find yourself doubting if the person even believed their own story or if they’re making it up to make himself sound better?
As observers of these stories, we are subconsciously human lie detectors, automatically assessing the authenticity of someone’s story. It can take an effort to listen solely with compassion and empathy. However, when we are the storytellers, we are essentially blind to how our stories are perceived. Since it is our brain’s natural inclination to defend its own “natural” responses, most people don’t see a better way to tell the story, but there is a better way!
What we want can sabotage us
As a student of Landmark Education, I learned that our primal motivation in communication is to make ourselves look good and, in doing so sometimes, make others look bad. The only way to stop this cycle so that you can be your authentic self and instill true trust and confidence is to acknowledge our nature, be accountable, and overcome you story. Another added bonus of being authentic and instilling confidence is job momentum in the form of increased employment leads and interviews that convert into job offers. Most recruiters are very skeptical; a candidate who is genuine has a large competitive advantage to one who appears to be hiding something, and most recruiters assume everyone is hiding something. The question that most concerns them is, is what you are hiding relevant to your job performance and your ability to be successful?
You might’ve heard that there are two sides to every story, but what happens when your story doesn’t match up with someone else’s? It becomes a he-said/she-said no-win situation. If you are telling a story about a previous work situation that presents any kind of risk, it will be something the recruiter is going to verify. If there are any discrepancies, you are out of the running.
Stories that we tell ourselves really do shape our reality. We owe it to ourselves to be clear about our role in the outcomes we create. We owe it to ourselves to create stories in our lives in which we are the heroes, and in which we embody the qualities that we admire most.
Vishen Lakhani, Founder of MindValley, identified six basic human needs in in his Mind Hack talk at Wisdom 2.0, which are very different from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The last of these needs, but certainly not the least, is a sense of control. Does that resonate with you? Is what you want most to feel a sense of control about what happens in your life? Is what you want most to feel like things will not happen to you that you don’t want to happen?
What are you seeing in your life right now? If you don’t feel like you have a sense of control, do you feel like you react instead of respond to adversities? Do you feel like people around you never give you what you ask for or what you need? Do you feel like things never go as planned?
The only way to get from where you are right now to where you want to be, if what you want is a sense of control and freedom to be authentic is to look deeply at yourself and how you contributed to the status of your life right now. This is not an exercise in shame. We unconsciously make ourselves feel worse all the time. When we defend ourselves in situations, and when we feel the need to de-stress or escape our lives by doing more things that are detrimental to our mental physical and emotional well-being, we are trying to escape guilt, shame, and, in essence, the reality that you created. These things, however, only enhance our sense of dread and diminish our control of our lives. The point here is to feel free and alive.
Confronting yourself about how you impact your own life can be painful, but as Carl Jung stated, what we resist persists. Once you recognize your own accountability, eliminate the pain faster by letting yourself feel it fully for a short, set amount of time, like a half hour or a half day, depending on how deeply seeded the pain is. Notice even WHERE your pain is physically, and allow yourself to truly feel it.
Once you feel as though you have felt as much pain as was there, consciously release it. You can do this just by stating it is so, for example, “I release my pain. Or, you can imagine putting this pain and putting your mistakes in to helium balloon and then releasing it into the air. You could write them down and burn them in a fire. Let them go, and let go of the stories that other people and circumstances beyond your control are the reasons that your life is the way it is. Having a sense of control of your life is a choice that you can simply make. It’s not just mental; it is emotional. When you empower yourself to change your life, feel that power inside you. Feel as though you are supported. Your imagination can be very powerful here. Even if you do not believe in a higher power, you can just imagine what it is like to be lucky and to have a charmed life where everything goes your way, and you will manifest better fortune.
Yes, we are sometimes damaged by the actions and words of others. There’s no denying the impact that other people can have to the way that we perceive ourselves and the world around us, however we always have choice. As Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” At some point, you may have given someone permission to hurt you emotionally, and now is the time to take it back.
Getting clear about what’s true and what’s story
Once you release the self-inflicted pain of your previous choices, you put your brain’s defenses at ease and you can more clearly evaluate how you contributed to an unsuccessful situation. Create a timeline of the situation starting as early as possible. If it’s a job situation, think about your first interactions with the company and your boss. Was it possible you had clues or intuitions about a possible bad outcome that you ignored? Did you misrepresent a qualification in your desperation to get hired? These things happen all the time. The only way to prevent getting stuck in a similar story and be empowered to alter your future is to really see how your choices could have been different. We can never be sure what our present would look like had we made different choices, and we are sure to make mistakes, but we owe it to ourselves to NOT make the same mistakes that we know led us to an undesirable place in our lives, careers and relationships.
The flipped script
No employer will anticipate you being a perfect human being. In fact, they will anticipate that you have made some mistakes. Some people think that the question, “Tell us about your weaknesses,” is a trap designed to trick you into spilling your guts about how bad you are so they can eliminate you as a candidate. What an employer really actually wants you to deliver in your answer to that question is strong sense of character that you have built by making mistakes, acknowledging them, taking accountability for them, and either fixing them or learning a lesson that alters the way you approach the situation in the future. Your ability to acknowledge when you make a mistake actually presents you as less risky than somebody who blames others. When you tell a story about somebody else who is at fault, the listener projects you in the future telling similar stories about them. They don’t want to be the future subject of your blame stories.
Some career coaches will advise you on what to say and how to correct your posture to address these stories, and some people may be successful using these tactics. However, we have found that what you say and how you say it is not as impactful as WHO YOU ARE when you say it. Meaning, are you coming from a good intention and are you being your best self?
Once you remove the emotional charge of your previous stories, it’s time to write a new one. Please refer to our previous posts: Your Heroic Job Search, How to Use an Alter-Ego to Land a Job and Be The Rock Star for more insights on that.
In some cases, less is more. This might be a difficult thing to discern for yourself. If you have questions about how to address something either in a networking situation or interviewing situation, please reach out to us. There are times when we will advise you that all you want to report are exactly the facts of what happened and leave it there. For example, when there is a downsizing, no additional details are really necessary. You don’t need to go into the conditions under which a company needed to downsize, unless you are a person who directly impacted a company’s need to downsize.
Also, some people blame themselves after being laid off when it really was a blessing they just don’t recognize yet. Make sure you don’t spend eternity confronting yourself. The key is to release the pain and move forward in a better direction.
We’re all human (I’m assuming,) and we all have the same tendency to protect our fragile psyches. The thing is, we don’t always see how our protection ultimately inhibits our quality of life, and even sometimes our health. Coaches shine a mirror and a light on your blind spots. Few others will. If you are lacking a sense of control and feel unsupported, the only way to change that is to recognize how powerful you are in creating your reality, CHOOSE to embrace your power, and learn how you can make better choices that align with who you really are. Until we shed the weight of the protection we carry, we don’t realize how much it has weighed us down, how light and free we can feel, and how high we can really go.