A reflective OU MBA study and action journal on management-related topics.

How can you frame a compelling career-change story?

with 2 comments

After being side-tracked by my last B821: Financial Strategy assignment last week, and life in general, I’m back on the personal EBI case. Following  on from Drucker’s ideas for managing oneself better, I turned to Herminia Ibarra for further guidance on framing my career-after-MBA direction.

Ibarra and Lineback (2005) in their article “What’s your Story?” have interesting points to make about trying to link up your past career/life to the new direction you seek. They point out that many people struggle to explain what they want to do next and why a change makes sense. People fear looking flaky, incoherent and indecisive. Because of this, people stick to a factual career narrative which does not explain their long-term goals or aspirations well enough for others to “Buy-in” to their desired change.

This is why Ibarra and Lineback say it’s important to craft a good story for each of the career avenues you wish to pursue. By linking your present and future goals to your past career history, you can help others to understand how you got to the juncture you are at today and where you want to journey onto now. Being able to make sense of the turning point that led you to want to change your career direction is an important step to convincing ourselves, and others, that the career change is meaningful and not fleeting.  Your story must be coherent and persuasive, if you hope to redirect your career trajectory.

Thankfully, Ibarra and Lineback do provide some useful action points that they believe can help a professional change career direction, those being:

  • Link your change reasons to your skillset e.g “I found that I was good at X…”
  • Mention multiple reasons (personal & professional) for why you want change;
  • Make sure you have reasons for why you didn’t pursue your current goals in your past;
  • Reframe your past in light of your current/future goals;
  • Choose a story form that lends itself to your tale of reinvention such as a maturing view of the world or learning from self-reflection/educational insight;

They also suggest that in the early stages of your career transition, it is important to identify and actively consider multiple career pathways. This is something that I’ve already started doing. I’m trying to map my career options with a list of known pros and cons for each pathway.

Furthermore, once you have settled on the career routes that you wish to pursue, it is important to discuss them with different types of audiences such as friends, family, co-workers or acquaintances. The more feedback you get, the more likely you are to settle on the right career path for you and the one that is the most achievable.


Ibarra H, & Lineback K (2005). What’s your story? Harvard business review, 83 (1), 64-71 PMID: 15697114



2 Responses

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  1. I love this post. You are so on point. How long have you been going through this career journey?

    • Hi there,

      I guess since I decided to pursue the MBA in 2009 I have been thinking of what to next., but I have only really started analysing my options now. I think it is going to be a long process, but I hope the blog will help shape my thoughts.

      Thanks for reading,



      15/09/2011 at 9:46 am

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