Using Storytelling in Career Exploration


By Lysa Appleton.

Creative play is an effective tool for career exploration or refinement. For several years now, I have used “vision boarding” as a way to support my clients in gaining clarity on their career path. This year, I began incorporating storytelling as a method for career consulting.

Over the last few years, I have become increasingly interested in how storytelling can work as an informal assessment, or alongside standardized assessments, to enhance and expedite the career change and job transition processes, or clarify career goals as part of a lifelong career management process. The reasons I am drawn to storytelling as a tool are that:

  1. It is a right-brain, creative process that stimulates other right brain neuropathways to enhance imagining/dreaming, creative thinking and innovative problem solving – all things important for career transition or change.
  1. Writing one’s story allows us to review and reflect on our story as an observer and allows for a different perspective. It affirms that our personal stories are important and true for us, and writing them down allows us to share our stories with others, fostering understanding and even camaraderie.
  1. In writing down stories and including details such as strengths, aptitudes, best interests, ideal career objectives and action steps, we actually make those concepts concrete.

Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that only 3% of people actually write down their goals but of those 3%, 97% achieve them successfully within their desired time frame – pretty powerful.  In my experience, I have seen repeatedly that when writing down goals or concepts, something happens in the brain that enables them to materialize.  In writing our stories, we put our attention on our experiences and our intentions, and that focus allows us to manifest them.

I believe that in helping our clients understand themselves more completely, we can support them in developing a clearer sense of direction and purpose when it comes to their career planning. As part of my journey to incorporate story-telling into my career coaching, and as part of our CPC Mastermind Group, I created a booklet to test its effectiveness in helping clients tell their stories. The exercises are adapted from the counseling principles of Mark L Savakis and Paul J. Hartung (, and the work of Mark Franklin and Career Cycles. ( I found the feedback positive.

There are many examples of how story writing can successfully support a new career identity or facilitate a positive career change. Many Career Development theorists, Richard Nelson Bolles, Bernard Haldane and Vance Peavy, among others, study storytelling.  George Dutch offers insight on the topic of life-story writing for career change in The Canadian Journal of Career Development Volume 15.

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Do you use the Career Storytelling manual with your clients in a one to one or do you email it to them for them to work on independently?

Hi Cindy,

Thanks for your question. I send the workbook to them to work on and but we review different sections together as needed and do coaching each session around any answers, questions or concerns when they request it.

Could I get the specific name of the Career Storytelling manual that you’re talking about or were you referring to Lysa’s booklet? thank you

I enjoyed reading your article, I’m always looking at interesting ways to help my clients explore their career options. This gave me some really good ideas thanks .

Oh and one more thing, is your booklet available for others to use?

Hi Linda,

Thanks for your question. I am currently working on a flow chart that outlines the process and some questions to support clients in using storytelling to support the career transition process. I am happy to share it once it is complete. Would you like me to send it to you once finished?

Good afternoon,

Currently, I am a student who is taking a Career Counselling course in which we are learning different styles of information gathering to help our future clients find the direction that they desire. I came across your site and was quite intrigued by your storytelling technique. I also saw that you had a workbook that you send to clients and would love to review a copy for my project. I am wondering if you could send me any information that may help to gather ideas around storytelling for career counseling for my upcoming project. Or perhaps you could lead me in a direction for sources or sites at your recommendation.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Rhiannon Marshall