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Guest Author Blog - The Power of a Story by Claire Harbour Lyell

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

I'm thrilled to have Claire as my guest author blogger.

Not only is Claire an author, a mother and a successful business woman but she speaks many languages, fluently.

She's been a CEO, a strategy consultant, a headhunter, a startup and small business manager; she has worked in China, India, Italy, Brazil, France, USA and more.

Claire has helped over a thousand professionals in search of the next great challenge!

I know you will enjoy this captivating read.

Woman standing next to a palm tree

It took me decades to realize how much I love people and their stories! Or at least to verbalize it…

All through my childhood, I wrote stories, inspired by little weird events in my life. I also told rather tall tales, when given the opportunity by circumstances of anonymity, as demonstrated by when I had a whole train compartment believing I was the orphan of a Jewish Russian ballerina, exiled to Siberia…

The fascination with story and communication are probably what led to my learning numerous languages, along with the fact that my parents were generous enough to give me the chance of growing up trilingual (both roots and emigration took care of that!). By the time I had graduated from university, I spoke five languages, and had big plans to become the next Christiane Amanpour the great CNN storyteller-from-faraway places. However, a moment of clarity reminded me of how I cry upon seeing strangers saying goodbye at stations, and this hardly seemed compatible with reporting from war zones and refugee camps…

But I digress… so what happened was that I made an unconscious shift from telling other people’s stories to creating my own. And my story contains a few dramas, which are not the point here and now, but suffice to say that they include early career peaks, latter career frustrations and disappointments; big money and no money; marriage, four children in five years and divorce; and life and travel through 17 countries, 4 continents and 8 languages. And, I believe, through all of that, that I have made career transitions 19 times, not including parenthood!

Conference stage

So, over the last ten years, a good friend asked me to start writing articles for him, on HR and Talent Management, as this was his passion. Although I had always been fascinated by people, and focused really hard on supporting my staff and colleagues in their development, it was not fully on my radar screen at the time. But, the funding of four children’s school fees, clothing, travel and costly pointe shoes loomed, as ever, on my divorcee’s horizon, and I said yes. What started as a pot-boiler soon became a passion, and Antoine and I worked more and more closely together, trying to unravel what makes a great career, as opposed to a mediocre or downright appalling one. And we got really really obsessed with deciphering how best to navigate the big shifts.

A series of articles that we wrote on some of the more “disruptive” career shifts, such as coming out of the military and into business, or retiring from professional sport and becoming a manager, began to gain traction, and we were being published and syndicated all over the world. At this stage, Antoine started mumbling about writing a book. And I did my best to ignore him.

Months went by, and the mumblings became louder, until I could no longer ignore them. All my best arguments, like “but nobody reads books any more” and “it’ll never make us any money” went unheard. Finally, I put my cards on the table and said that I would only do it if he paid me to write the book… and he agreed! I have never worked with a kinder, fairer and more empathic soul than Antoine. He saw that there was a solution, and found our sweet spot for happiness in writing the book, called DISRUPT YOUR CAREER - how to navigate uncharted career transitions and thrive.

office chairs large glass windows and tall buildings

The next year was spent with my writing for a few days per month, and our editing, planning, strategizing and rethinking, between our homes in Paris and Toulouse. Not one cross word. Not one big fight. It was just natural and easy to create nine “story” chapters, looking at the different types of career transitions, with the story of five or six real-life subjects at the heart of each one. The interviewing and story-writing stages were of most interest to me, and the background research was Antoine’s excitement, so we were pretty seamless. We found the conclusions together, and wrote enthusiastically about all our recommendations.

We also knew that the market for our book was there, and that nobody else had combined stories with hard, strategic advice for both individuals and companies. This gave me strength when we were going through the final stages of copy editing and general snagging before finally clicking “send” on the publishing platform.

What really helped us was our extensive network of potential readers and advocates. We managed to obtain some extraordinarily high profile reviews and recommendations, like these:

The work involved in persuading rockstars like these to read and then write a review has paid off in buckets! The book makes a respectable amount of money, but above all it opens doors.

Award from All ladies league & economic forum

Since becoming a published expert author, my ability to connect with top executives and organizations has multiplied, and the chances of getting them to pay me decent fees for work are also increased.

I tell you all this not to boast, but to show that it really can be done! I started a novel when I was 29, but never had the courage to finish it. I was bulldozed in the nicest possible way to write DISRUPT YOUR CAREER, but finally agreed, and boy, was it worth doing! You can obtain your own copy of the book here.

Turning your own experience into expertise is not always an obvious thing to do, but when you can figure it out, it is not only fun, but also rewarding, professionally, personally and financially!

I work as a career transition coach with people all over the world, who are seeking inspiration and support as they make their own disruptive shifts. I also consult to companies who want to do a better job with their talent management. And finally I run career disruption workshops all over the world, for universities, for alumni and business groups, and for you, if you wish… You can contact me here, or take a look at my website for this work here.

Claire Harbour-Lyell

+33 6 0886 6041

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