Have a look at the following descriptions and decide which best captures the truth about your career.
1. You became aware over time of a major dark power in your career, it could have been a parent, colleague, boss, or some physical thing such as a disability or the tyranny of distance. You spent a time thinking about this hinderance and what you could do about it. You spent some time frustrated and giving in to this power. After struggling and living with this power and almost giving up hope, you eventually summoned enough courage to overcome it, leading to a happier more content career.
2. You had nothing, maybe out of work, demoted, disillusioned or the perpetual underdog. Then circumstances threw you into having to deal with a crisis at work. No-one really believed you were up to it, and you struggled, but as time went on you got more confident and eventually succeeded where others failed or where others had doubted your ability. Your career improved markedly afterwards.
3. Things were going along just fine, until you became aware of something that really needed addressing through work such as an injustice or a need to find something out. You started to address the issue and met a lot of resistance. You persisted, but just when you think you were in sight of your goal, it was blocked by even greater resistance, indeed outright hostility. You took some knocks, but stuck to your guns and finally you came through, a little scarred, but able to say you reached the goal.
4. You decided on a course of action, without realizing just how hard or complex it would be. Initially everything went well, and you felt exhilarated by your progress. Then things started to go wrong, and just when you thought they couldn’t get any worse they did. You were on the point of total collapse and failure, when a miracle occured that rescued you from oblivion and delivered you a sweet victory. The learning you experienced transformed your outlook on work.
5. You were living in a world of work where you simply couldn’t understand what was going on or why. Nothing seemed to make sense and nothing you did seemed to be correct. Indeed every time you acted, it ended up going spectacularly wrong. You just seemed to see things differently to other people. Things got so bad and frustrating you felt like quitting until somebody with a new perspective came along and for the first time in ages you realised how deluded you and perhaps others had been, resulting in smoother sailing from there on in.
6. You had a nagging sense of need or desire, something was missing from your life. You responded to an offer from a third party, perhaps a colleague, and embarked on a new course of action. Initially you felt your needs were being met at last. However as time went on things started to go wrong, and that only changed when they got a whole lot worse. So bad indeed, that everything began to fall apart, eventually you were left with nothing, and feeling pretty abject. That pact with the third party was your demise.
7. You met someone who made your working life go really well for a while, and without knowing it you were not really in control anymore, and it was this other person who was calling the shots. Essentially your life was put on hold as this other person took almost complete control. Then out of the blue an innocent third party acted or said something that made you wake up to yourself and come out from under the spell. Suddenly you felt reinvigorated and back on track again.
The 7 different narratives above, are according to Christopher Booker (7 essential plots:why we tell stories. Continuum, 2005), the 7 different fundamental plot lines in the stories that we tell in all societies. In the order presented above they are: 1. Overcoming the monster; 2. Rags to riches; 3. the Quest; 4. Voyage and Return; 5. Tragedy; 6. Comedy and 7. Rebirth. Rob Pryor and myself have written a paper in the International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance exploring these ideas further.
From a career perspective, having insight into which plot you are using for your career narrative can be the first step in changing the plot to a more useful one for your purposes. Any one plot is merely one take on reality, and other plots might provide a better or more positive perspective to help you think about your career. So if you identified with the Tragedy story, maybe you need to start working on a Rags to riches, or Voyage and Return story instead!