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Throughout my career, I interviewed many executives. I dealt, therefore, with people among the most prepared in the marketplace. They were success stories. One point, however, always drew my attention. Time and again, their success did not translate into the way they told their careers. On recurring occasions, they seemed only to describe their résumés. I was trying to understand why this happens so often and what lies behind these career narratives.

From 2015, through my master’s degree in organizational psychology, at INSEAD, in France, my informal investigation became a study, which in turn became the subject of my thesis. I selected executives in Brazil, men and women of different nationalities, to answer my question. Beyond content, I began to pay attention to the way each person in front of me chained the facts of their lives in an attempt to identify what made one narrative stand out from the other.


I noticed that some people, particularly, touched me in a different way while others, not so much. When that happened, I would end the interview thinking, “Wow, what a story!” It was then that I discovered the first difference: the one who narrates their career with emotion, with ups and downs as it is the life of any ordinary person, tells a story. And so it becomes memorable. Sometimes, months or years later, I still remembered them, some scene described or some spoken phrase. So I “archived” these stories in my mind, which evoked their protagonists. I wondered if some time or some way I would be able to help them fulfill their desire, or even better, accomplish their goal. Good stories well told, connect and inspire.

“Good stories well told, connect and inspire.”


A career narrative also depends on how much people know and reveal about themselves as they tell their stories, taking off some of the “masks” they wear to play their social roles. This conclusion led me to the concept of authenticity. Authenticity has deep and strong roots in existential philosophy and psychology. It is often associated with the process of discovering one’s inner truth. Authenticity is directly linked to the search and expression of one´s thoughts, feelings, values and motivations, and the ability to make life choices accordingly. But most of it rests below the waterline, like the submerged part of an iceberg. Analyzing the narratives through the lenses of authenticity, I found that those who reflected on the “whys” of their choices and revealed them in their stories were perceived as more authentic. To this process of reflection on the meaning of one´s career experiences and choices I gave the name of reflective thinking, which has become the first of the three elements of an authentic career narrative. The concepts of emotional presence, being fully present in the moment of the storytelling, and authoring, taking the author’s role, emerged from the course of my research and completed the tripod of authenticity.

I do not advocate that everyone should take off their “masks” completely whenever they talk about themselves. They have their protective function. ”


The fact is that revealing yourself is an act of courage because it means facing your vulnerability. It is natural for each listener to judge the story based on their own beliefs. If the teller does not bring the “whys” to the story, the listener in turn will be compelled to sort it out with the “maybes”. Authenticity is an option _ and a consequence maybe not to please everyone. Each time someone tries to match the expectations of others or to conform to external references, such as prevailing leadership standards, they can distance themselves from who they really are and also from their real goals.

I do not advocate that everyone should take off their “masks” completely whenever they talk about themselves. They have their protective function. If you take into consideration the context, the existence of a safe space, a reliable relationship, and above all, keep in mind your real goals, sometimes taking your masks off or lowering your waterline is a path to a more authentic expression. In my opinion, authenticity is worth taking. It is the key to finding places where we belong to and people connected to whom we really are.

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