My journey to a stories officer role

Posted on 28th May, 2021

Recently I’ve been thinking about how I got into working on stories in the charity sector. I trained in fine art and told stories in installations, and in a curatorial way by organising exhibitions in public and corporate spaces. I moved into research and started to work with people, gathering their stories for qualitative research and was introduced to narrative methodologies by Victoria Ward and Paul Corney.


Paul and Victoria took me on a path into the corporate world of stories and knowledge management and we worked on some intense and creative projects. One that I really enjoyed was developing stories and coding themes on the subject of, wait for it; “the benefits of a long term (10 year) financial strategy, for the then Audit Commission. I remember creating a workshop plan to explore the findings by using story boxes as objects – I learnt a lot from working on this project seeing the importance of people using objects to tell their stories and how stories can illustrate good practice in organisations, oh and the bad practice too!


Lying here, resting on my lunch break, the smell of tea wafting over my face, I started to think how did I and why did I start to work in the charity sector? Well, five years ago, I was seriously ill with one of the conditions I have. This meant I had to take some time out to recover. One day, when I was starting to gain strength, I saw on Facebook an advert for a Support to Work scheme run by Scope. Now then, at this time I was beginning to realise there were potential barriers to me returning to work; fatigue, threat of infections, painful and swollen legs and brain fog (to name but a few) – how would I be able to work with all of these things? I clicked on apply to Support to Work and thought what the heck, what have I got to lose, maybe they can help me overcome these perceived barriers.


My application was accepted. I received a phone call that week from a support officer. A lovely lady called Pia chatted to me. She said she would like to book some time in with me to go over what I was looking for in a job and to send my CV to her. I came off of the phone. My palms were wet. I had been nervous on the call, I was scared. I didn’t know what I was looking for, and I didn’t feel ready to go back to work.  And I had a task, I had to prepare my CV - but who would employ me? Looking back now, I can see how my confidence had totally gone.


The time came for my next call with Pia. I waited nervously. I had worked on my CV and sent it over. What would Pia say? The phone rang. I answered ‘hello’, tentatively. Pia answered in her cheerful way and I began to feel at ease. We chatted about my CV and came up with my next task. To find a job advert that would suit my skills and prepare an application but with the intention of not submitting it. Then Pia asked me if I would like to share my story for Scope about using the service and if so, she would pass my details on to a ‘Stories Officer’ – wow I thought, a Stories Officer, I had never heard of that before. I said yes, sure, happy to help Scope any way I can – I was very thankful for this free service.  We booked in our next call – and I prepared myself for the task of putting together a job application.


A week later I had an email from Hayley, the then Senior Stories Officer at Scope asking if she could interview me so that Scope could share my story. We arranged to meet in a coffee shop near where I lived – ‘I’ll come to you’ Hayley had said. The day arrived of the interview. I was a little early to the coffee shop. I ordered my usual (oh the days of coconut lattes), and sat in a table near the window. A friendly woman entered the coffee shop with a big smile and was looking around and then saw me, and knew I was the person she was looking for. I smiled and stood up, ready to shake Hayley’s hand. We greeted each other, Hayley got a coffee and came back to sit with me. I remember how her dress blew around her as she graced her chair and she sat and relaxed and pulled out her phone. ‘Can I record the interview?’ She asked, ‘yes sure’ I replied. She placed the phone on the table, sat back, relaxed and we started to chat.


I say chat, as it didn’t feel like an interview. Hayley is a very skilled interviewer. I was very relaxed and shared my story, my insecurities and sadness and happiness too. Hayley made me feel very comfortable. We chatted for over an hour and a half and I asked lots of questions about Scope and about disability. I felt safe.


That evening, I looked on Scope’s website and looked up the Stories Team. Who were they and what did they do? I found the space that the Stories Manager and Senior Stories Officer were on and read the stories they had worked on with people. I really liked what Scope were doing, and I really enjoyed my time with Hayley. I thought to myself, why don’t I look at the jobs on the website, just to look. To my surprise a job was being advertised for a Stories Officer – oh I thought, let’s have a look at this, maybe this is the job I could put an application together for. I read the job description, and wow, I wanted to apply – where had this eagerness come from? There was something that was calling me to this role. All of my skills were applicable, and I felt safe with the people they employed and for the first time I could talk to a person who knew about disability and the social model of disability.


But wait, the deadline for applications was that day. Oh no. I emailed Hayley to say I had seen the job and could I apply and be a day late. I didn’t have to wait to long for a reply. She replied and said yes I could. I prepared a statement, and I had my CV ready to go, so I sent them in. My palms sweated again after I pressed send on the email to Hayley. What was I doing?


A few days later I had an email to say I had an interview! What, I thought? Oh goodness. What’s going to happen now? The rest is a bit of a blur. I remember being sat outside the office building waiting for my interview, seeing all these people going to work, feeling slightly out of place and old. I had a tough but enjoyable interview with Hayley and two others, I could feel my confidence coming back. I was called back for a second interview. This time I met, the then Content Manager and the then Head of Marketing. I felt at home. I really wanted the job. Well, you can guess the outcome, I was successful and I started working in a great team, learning how to be a Stories Officer.


I loved being a Stories Officer and still do. I had found what I didn’t know what I had been looking for. Now I had to tell Pia. I wasn’t looking for a job but I found one organically. I don’t remember how I told Pia – all I remember now is that we have become friends and we shared our story at Scope events. I know I mention Scope a lot in this blog, but the Stories Officer role has really had an impact on my career path. Not only, did I get back into work, but I found a pastoral job I love doing. I gained my confidence again and started on a career journey in stories that is taking me to working with many volunteers.


Now, a few years down the line, I have moved and am the Stories Officer at Taskforce for Lung Health – a place where I can work on sharing stories on lung conditions, advocating for support of lung health care. I bring my lived experience to this role, and I adore working with colleagues and storytellers to bring about change. It’s a short-term freelance contract which will be ending soon. So, I am looking out for the next story adventure. Where will I be at the end of the year?  Whose stories will I be sharing? – watch this space?







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