My Lean In Story

Lean In LogoA few months ago, the Anita Borg Institute asked me to write a story about a time I chose between fear and leaning in to my career. They wouldn’t tell me why, except that they were working on a confidential project about women leaning in, and that it would be announced in March. Right away, I knew the project was for Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In movement. And I was thrilled. I wanted to show my support for the movement, and I now had the opportunity.

Here’s the guidance I received for writing my story:

A Lean In Story is a tension point in one’s career that offers two possible outcomes: “leaning in” or “leaning back.” Examples are: asking for a raise and getting it, realizing a need to switch departments and doing it, motivating yourself to reach a difficult work goal, etc.

And here is the structure I should follow:

First-person account that follows a traditional story arc, in 500 words or less.

a) Set the stage – offer a short account of details leading up to the tension point

b) Introduce the tension point – this is typically when fear, vulnerability and doubt appear.  Make sure to outline what the paths of leaning in and /or leaning back looked like

c) Decide to lean in or lean back – stories are more likely to be about leaning in but they could also be about leaning back

d) Share the resolution – how did you feel after the decision was made? How did the situation play out?

e) Show the future – how did your decision impact you, both personally and professionally.  Share a positive ending about what you learned from the experience.  Don’t be afraid to weave in some closing advice or words of wisdom.

While I have dozens of examples of both leaning in and leaning back over my career, I knew immediately which story to tell: when I decided to move from a great part-time job into a full-time role with a lot more responsibility. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and I wanted to share all the reasons I didn’t think I should lean in, and why I finally did.

You can read my story at http://leanin.org/stories/karen-catlin/. While there, be sure to read some of the other stories. Each one is a pocket of inspiration in 500 words or less.

If you have a story you would like to share, visit the Lean In site and follow the steps to submit your story. I look forward to reading it!

–Karen

© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

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