Dear fellow young professionals: Don’t leave your stories at the door!
By Omar Housany
Disclaimer: The views are those of the author's alone and do not represent the views of UNA-Canada.
As a young professional who has spent a lot of time navigating a complex job market, it has seemed like a good idea to code-switch. In other words, alter my overall persona to try and fit into corporate work cultures that care more about how workers perform as opposed to the worker's background, experiences, and life lessons that make them who they are.
I’ll be the first to admit that I have code switched before. I have left my stories full of opinions, ideas, and life lessons passed onto me from generations of past ancestors at the door because I thought that they weren’t important and would not add anything substantial to my journey in achieving my professional goals. I could not have been more wrong.
Not being your authentic self is exhausting. It is so much easier to come to work as you are and it’s liberating to be appreciated for it. My time as a Junior Professional Consultant (JPC) with the United Nations Association of Canada placed remotely with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Indonesia has taught me that. From my first interview to continued learning opportunities, to the tasks I am working on presently, storytelling has been encouraged and I feel like my stories are valued, considered and appreciated.
JPC Omar on bringing your authentic self to the workplace
Throughout my placement, I have been open about my upbringing and being raised by Afghan parents and grandparents who have escaped armed conflict. I have also made sure to share my experience with my colleagues as a first-time university student in my family and how that has shaped me into the person I am today. They also know about my interest in international law and geopolitics and my goal to one day become an international lawyer. I have had the honour of being able to hear their stories as well. Storytelling is a simple oral tradition but with it, we have been able to delegate tasks according to our strengths and experiences. It all seems so simple, but far too often we get so caught up in our workloads as young professionals that we forget to connect with our co-workers. Sharing stories ensures that this connection is not lost.
As a Quality Assurance JPC, I get to read over many different kinds of reports that deal with a variety of development initiatives. UNDP Indonesia values storytelling and this is clear through the testimonies of the research participants I get to read. In hearing their stories, we can do the work necessary to deliver on development goals and create sustainable change.
I do believe that just by sharing our stories, our work will be more meaningful, and our productivity will also be increased because workloads can be delegated to each worker's desires and interests. I’m glad that a lot more workplaces are encouraging storytelling and hope to see this change continue as I progress in my career.