The Workstyle, Lifestyle Podcast.

#2 - Make better career choices by knowing your personal story with Anna van der Horst, Eelloo

Welcome to the second episode of the Eva Women Podcast!

This week on the Eva Women Podcast we are talking to organisational psychology expert Anna van der Horst, PhD, who works for eelloo, a company that helps organisations hire and retain staff and creates a work environment that puts people first.

Anna explained to us how important it is for people to discover their own story: where they are now and where they want to go, providing focus so that they can take control of their own careers. She addresses some of the current issues in our ever-changing workforce such as intrinsic motivation, purpose and stress, and how they fit into building a clear identity at work.

"If you are able to tell a coherent story about who you are, where you’re from and also where you want to go, it becomes much easier to show proactive behaviour that is helpful in deciding a good path for you in your own career.”

Anna van der Horst

"People can deal with working hard, they can deal with stress quite well, but they can’t deal with not belonging, or the stress of not knowing who are you or where you’re going.”

Anna van der Horst
Better career choices and more trust in the future thanks to a clear personal story

Today’s modern way of working requires different career skills. Teams and functions are more dynamic. It’s important that when people find themselves in new situations, they always know who they are and what role or projects suit their personal ambition and qualities. But how can people make the right choices in their career? 

Only knowing about a personal profile (personality, experience, etc.) is no longer enough to always make the right match between people and work. Just as someone settles into their role, something changes again and new choices have to be made. That’s why people’s stories have become increasingly more important. What makes work meaningful to you? What do you want to contribute to? What motivates you to continue? When are you proud of what you’ve achieved? A personality questionnaire or résumé does not provide any immediate answers to this.

The personal story can be seen as an ‘inner compass’. When someone knows their own story well, they can better find work that suits them, and it becomes easier to make the right choice when the situation changes. Also, having a clear story helps people be more proactive in order to direct their own career. This proactive behaviour is very important for career success when changes occur quickly (Savickas, 2013; Van der Horst, 2018)

This is why we’ve created an online programme, based on the Career Story Interview of Mark Savickas. This programme uses a step by step approach to help people write their own story. Together with a career coach or during a workshop, in-depth questions can help provide meaning to various elements of a story. Additionally, concrete career steps can be drawn up. A story is not an enumeration of facts: it needs to be about how someone sees themselves and their career. When does work have meaning? Here, someone is not looking for what they think is ‘true’ or can be measured. A story is always in motion and can change over the years. People can always add or change parts in the programme. 

The positive effect of sharing stories in teams: 

Within teams, it’s important to learn about each other’s story. When people hear each other’s stories, they experience a real connection. This is how they know what’s important to others. Teams therefore undergo a development and work together on a deeper level. Telling stories brings people closer together and helps them to appreciate differences at the same time. 

“People like to tell stories. Storytelling connects people because others are touched, inspired or feel supported by the story. They often recognise themselves in it. Storytelling helps increase empathy. It ensures that people are taken out of their own system and can better put themselves in other people’s shoes. Not only should people learn about introspection, but also about extrospection. On a small scale, this leads to more understanding and better relationships. On a large scale, this leads to social revolutions, for example when it comes to people’s rights”, explains Roman Krznaric in his book entitled Empathy.

More and more organisations are starting to create and share stories. If you’d like to know more about how you can work with personal stories within organisations or career coaching, find out more here.


Barclay, S. R., & Wolff, L. A. (2012). Exploring the career construction interview for vocational personality assessment. Journal of Vocational Behavior81(3), 370-377.

Di Fabio, A., & Maree, J. G. (2012). Group-based life design counseling in an Italian context. Journal of Vocational Behavior80(1), 100-107.

Hartung, P. J., & Taber, B. J. (2008). Career construction and subjective well-being. Journal of Career Assessment16(1), 75-85.

Krznaric, R. (2014). Empathy: A handbook for revolution. Random House.

Maree, J. G. (2016). Career construction counseling with a mid‐career Black man. The Career Development Quarterly64(1), 20-34.

McAdams, D. P. (2001). The psychology of life stories. Review of general psychology5(2), 100-122. 

Savickas, M. L. (2013). Career construction theory and practice. Career development and counseling: Putting theory and research to work2, 147-183.

Van der Horst, A. C. (2018). Ready for the change: strengthening adaptive responses to a looming career transition.

Learn More about Anna

Anna van der Horst is a postdoctoral researcher in organizational psychology at the Justus Liebig University (Germany). HR-consultant at eelloo, focusing on employability, proactive career behavior and identity.

Anna van der Horst
Connect with Anna

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