What Type of Career Growth Are You Seeking?

Tiny House

In today’s world, careers have often been described as “boundaryless“. We build our career paths and seek fulfillment by collecting experiences — often across organizations, supervisors and work content. Moreover, we struggle to maintain “career fit” within this context during the course of our work lives. What we seek growth-wise at specific points, can delineate our paths. Inevitably, we seek situations where we can find alignment with our current career vision.

There are various combinations of elements (such as challenge and stability) that describe growth “states”. After listening to countless career stories, the following  states appeared salient.We can flux in and out of these, depending on our goals (both in and out of work). Some contributors seem comfortable remaining in one state during their entire career, while others might shift to meet their evolving perspectives.

Above all, knowing thyself is critical. Individual contributors (and organizations alike) should build awareness concerning how our career growth needs might differ from each other — and how an individual’s needs can pivot over time.

To explore a growth strategy, asking these questions may help:

  1. Recall a time when you were satisfied with your career growth. How were you growing?
  2. How did that growth state align with your needs and goals?
  3. Have your career growth goals tended to evolve significantly over time or have they remained constant?
  4. Do you lean towards being proactive or relatively passive where career growth is concerned?
  5. How might voicing your growth state positively affect your career satisfaction?

Four Career Growth States

  • Future Forward. In this state, we may hold a role aligned with our education and experience — yet there is often a career step in their “back pocket” that serves as a  longer-term, motivating goal. Whether this entails preparation for a strong pivot or perhaps becoming an entrepreneur — we are firmly focused miles ahead. Gaining skills to ensure the dream comes alive is crucial. Organizations can contribute by building foundational skills, networks and intrapreneurship opportunities.
  • Calibrating. This state can involve a single path, as long as we have the opportunity to add or delete tasks/content that meets the need for challenge and learning. We might incorporate a constant flow of industry research or new veins of thought concerning products and customers. An expansion of the horizon, while bringing that information to our work is critical — and multiple benefits can be realized.
  • Progressive. While here, we are focused on building a new “morphed” path, integrating novel or disruptive elements (such as technology) smack into our area of expertise. We allow skills to co-exist that others may never envision together and this helps drive us forward. A high tolerance for ambiguity likely co-exists here, with a healthy dose of “progressive ambition”— as the steps of this path reveal themselves only as time goes on.
  • Steady-State. Healthy stability is the name of the game here. Contributors desire a specific role and enjoy maintaining a strong, singular focus for an extended period of time. We are less likely to job hop for salary or title, but might move along with a specific group of contributors aimed at an area of interest. Solving long term problems is often the hallmark.

So — where are you? Have I missed a growth category? Do we stay fixated in one state, or does this shift over time? Share your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.


5 Ideas to Improve Employee Engagement Today


I’ve been reading a lot of James Altucher’s work lately. I’ve tried previously to connect with his posts, with little success. However, this time around his advice resonated. In one recent post, he posed a challenge to think of 10 ideas a day. Granted — he issued a warning that this exercise is more difficult than it seems. However, it’s pretty clear that flexing this skill is good for all of us.

His advice: “One thing to try is to write down 10 ideas a day. This exercises the idea muscle and gets you 100x more creative than the average person over time. They could be business ideas, ideas to help other businesses, book ideas, or even ideas to surprise your spouse.”

So, I have ideas — and thought I might offer a few suggestions on how to affect the less than stellar engagement levels in our today’s workplaces.

Unfortunately, I don’t have 10 ideas. However, I have 5.
So — I’ll begin there. (Feel free to add to this list in comments):

  1. Show gratitude. We talk endlessly about this, however there remains a huge gratitude “deficit” within organizations today. So — send 5 emails thanking others for whatever makes them great to work with. If you don’t work with 5 people — send a couple of notes to your friends. Just tell them why you think they are great.
  2. Share someone’s work. If you feel someone’s work is exceptional, pass it on and help it get noticed. Share a presentation. Re-tweet a post. Let others know. Be someone’s champion. It just feels good.
  3. Talk about purpose. It’s difficult to think your job matters if you don’t see a connection between who you are and the organization’s goals. Help someone see the connection between their career purpose and their work. This can make a huge difference.
  4. Build resilience. There are so many situations that feel like failure — and it can seem as if we’ll never bounce back. If a co-worker has had a setback, offer them avenues to regain their mojo. (It’s better to say something, than nothing at all.) Remember, the next time they attempt to tackle that challenge, just may be the time they succeed.
  5. Build solid ground. If you manage others, focus on neglected workplace elements that can create a solid foundation. Constructs such as psychological safety can help others feel freer to take risks and do their best work.

You can read more about Positive Psychology here. I believe its principles can affect engagement: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130411141931-128811924-the-hero-resources-and-positivity-in-the-workplace.

Meanwhile — start a movement within your organization.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

4 Signs You’ve Already Left Your Job


It’s been months. You’ve been unhappy at work and in spite of your efforts — things haven’t improved. Through all of the discussions with your manager, colleagues and friends, you still find yourself upset, unmotivated and unfulfilled.

You may not realize it — but you may already passed the threshold of “gone”. Simply put, you may not be getting enough from your current role to sustain a viable, healthy relationship.

Research concerning the psychological contract in the workplace tells us that breaches of the exchange agreement between an employee and employer are common — yet mending these breaches can be challenging. In many cases we have already “left the building” and moved on — even if we remain physically present.

Here are signs you may have passed this critical point. If you recognize any of these (and have made an effort to affect the situation) —  I would begin to seriously consider a change:

  • You’ve withdrawn. Likened to depression, you may start cutting yourself off from workplace activities you would normally complete — even the tasks you previously found fulfilling. You may find yourself muttering,”What’s the difference if I respond to this e-mail?” or “Why bother following up with that customer?”.
  • You do not see a future. In some cases, you have already marked the “end of history” with your current job. One client described sitting in a training session and thinking: “Hopefully, I won’t be here to use this.” Enough said.
  • You’ve stopped sharing. We may have become reluctant to share ideas or opinions, as experience has shown they have not been respected or taken seriously. On another note, if you begin to “hoard” your best thoughts for your next employer, that speaks volumes about your frame of mind.
  • You have “divorce” fantasies. Is your exit already rehearsed? Are you envisioning the day you walk out forever? When you spend time with friends, are discussions about your next role central?

Ultimately, it may be high time to enrich your role or career — especially if you have already left psychologically. (By the way, you can read Whitney Johnson’s Disrupt Yourself for more guidance on attacking that change.)

Have you experienced the feeling it was “game over”in a role or career path? What happened next? Please share your experiences.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

I’m Betting on “Weak Links” for My Next Career Move: You Should Too


I’ve just had a break-neck, jam-packed conversation with an engaging (and uber-clever) family friend. As he is steeped in the Silicon Valley sub-culture, I was regretting that I didn’t have a cheat sheet handy. I am as well-informed concerning Silicon Valley as the next organizational psychologist — and as a result of my current gig — even slightly ahead of the pack. However, I was regretting my medication for spring allergies, as he launched into a perfectly inspiring explanation about how he landed his latest role.

We discussed “weak links” and “progressive ambition” (more on these below) — topics which will likely impact most of our career paths going forward. As he aptly pointed out, “Your followers that you engage at LinkedIn are your weak links. They will likely help you see (and gain) your next opportunity.”

He was absolutely right. Social networks have affected my career in a manner I never dreamed possible.

Slowly, (through my antihistamine fog) I began to realize that we were speaking exactly the same language. Although he was currently one of my “weak links — as we communicate sporadically — we have the ability to support each other to facilitate reaching our goals. We may never work together directly, but that matters little in the larger scheme. There is mutuality in the potential to enhance our paths.

Here are a few highlights of the conversation:

  • Progressive ambition. To be frank, we need to stop viewing our career path as set in stone. In fact, we should be open to viewing it as fluid — and even a bit murky. We’ll only see what’s next as we move through the steps. As we stand on one step’s shoulders — only then will we see what might come next.
  • The power of weak links. We haven’t fully embraced the power of the weaker links or “nodes” within our social networks — and we must try to do so. These weak links will impact both work and career. Here is what Gartner said about weak links in this classic 2010 post:

In swarms, if individuals know each other at all, it may be just barely, via weak links. Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. They are indirect indicators and rely, in part, on the confidence others have in their knowledge of people. Navigating one’s own personal, professional and social networks helps people develop and exploit both strong and weak links and that, in turn, will be crucial to surviving and exploiting swarms for business benefit.

  • We can nurture growing organizations through weak links. We had a great discussion about Andreesson & Horowitz, a Silicon Valley based VC firm that clearly understands this basic. They seek to support and develop the companies they back, with an emphasis on building their extended network. In terms of meeting the talent needs, they view themselves as a talent agency (Think of Hollywood’s CAA) — providing research concerning potential candidates for the start-ups they represent. Ultimately, they understand that when their portfolio of companies flourish — so do stakeholders.

How have your “weak links” pushed you forward? How do you nurture this part of your network?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.


Hack Your Career: Here’s How


I’ve just read Harvard Business Review’s “Hackathons Aren’t Just for Coders“. Everyone should have the opportunity to let their creative juices flow — in an environment where ideas are considered and taken seriously. Hackathons bring together people and ideas. A rare event in today’s world.

Interestingly, there is another area where a little “hacking” needs to occur: our own career journey. We devote little time to consider work-life “tangents” or non-traditional paths. However, when you sit back to examine what you bring to the table in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities — there could be a number of new avenues you could explore

You may not see all of those paths. So, a method to find them is vital.

Here’s is the rub. On reflection, I’ve met many people who have done something like this successfully. The new paths they pursued were not always radical — however, the changes were vital to work life happiness. In a sense, they threw their skills and hopes into the “blender of career life” and concocted something better suited to their true career identity. (I’ve chatted with a medical assistant that needed to lose “practice politics” and then became a masseuse. I’ve met a happy small town doctor that once found herself in a large, “city” practice.  A nurse with aspirations to use her love of exploration and connection, to become a travel writer.)


The Career Life Blender

They all embraced one fundamental strategy. They were open to a change that suited who they were, at they very moment. Their evolution (and yes, they were very uncomfortable) demanded a career response.

They “hacked” their career.

But, we don’t have to reach the ends of our rope, to do so.

Here is some advice to hack yours:

  • Don’t listen to you. For a period of time, set aside all of the reasons why a career hack cannot happen. Turn off that inner “naysayer”. Tell it to be absolutely quiet. Only listen to the possibilities
  • Ask the experts. And a I don’t mean career experts. Talk to 5 people who have knowledge of your workplace strengths. Ask them the following: Where do I excel? Do you think my current role accesses those attributes? Where do you see me job-wise? Why? Note their feedback and observe any trends. Get a real read on you.
  • Consider only the facts. When have you been the most productive or successful? When did you feel that your work life was on track? How would you describe that work life experience? What made you feel positive about that experience? What factors played a role?
  • Embrace possibilities. You can’t adjust your path if you don’t imagine your future self. Whether it is a  small pivot in your current role or an entirely different path — imagine yourself there. What do you see? What steps must you take to make your future career a reality? Take that first step.

Have you hacked your career journey? Share your story.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.

How About Never–Is Never Good for You?

I love a great cartoon about work life! This post has been re-blogged from Humor in America…

Humor in America

It stems from a conversation that Bob Mankoff had one time while trying to arrange to have lunch with a “friend.”  After several attempts to get together and several “not availables,” in frustration, Mankoff asked, “How about never—is never good for you?”  Luckily, Mankoff is a cartoonist for the New Yorker, and he was able to parlay that conversation into a cartoon that is an oft-repeated question as used by Nancy Pelosi on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show during the 2012 election, and it is listed in The Yale Book of Quotations somewhere between Herman J. Mankiewicz and Mao Tse-Tung.   It is also printed on coffee mugs and thong panties.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, this is the joke that made Bob’s fortune.


Bob Mankoff has exploited his joke one more time by naming his memoir, How About Never—Is Never Good for You? My Life in CartoonsNever is a…

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The Evolving Brand of “You”


I’ve just reread Tom Peter’s classic article The Brand Called You.

Revisiting this piece just seemed the right thing to do. I realize that we are not the Coca-Cola logo or an auto nameplate. However, aspects of our contributor brand — do evolve over time.

The trick is to document (and express) that evolution effectively.

I’ve spent the last 3 years exploring my professional options (passions, really) — and this of course, has deeply affected my brand. This probably sounds a little odd coming from me, as I/O Psychology appears at face value to be a fairly narrow realm. However, I’m a brutal realist. I have changed. My orientation toward the work followed suit.

If you’ve ever watched Dan Gilbert’s TED talk (See it below), you’ll get my drift. Life (and work) are never static. You are not either. That’s what we always forget to acknowledge. We are always changing — and how we evolve can be a huge surprise.

The truth is that you are likely in the process of change as we speak.

When I was working toward my Ph.D., I was enamored with quantifying all aspects of my field. I leaned heavily toward job analysis and selection tests. I was fascinated with the notion that a correlation coefficient could describe how an instrument could predict future performance. I sought out more and more techniques that allowed me to differentiate between groups of people statistically. It felt so right — and I was quickly addicted.

When I sat for my qualification exams — the outcome was not at all what I had expected. The professor whom I least identified with (he taught Motivation Theory of all things), let me know that I excelled in the questions designed to evaluate his topic area. I was shocked. “Not what you expected right?”, he happily informed me. I really didn’t know what to say, because I was truly disappointed. I thought that topic was a bit “fluffy” — if you get my meaning. I wanted nothing to do with it. But, I remember every single element of that conversation to this day. His face. His surprise at what he had learned about me.

I promptly dismissed the entire experience as “measurement error”.

Later on, I had to leave the field for a time because of family concerns. When I returned, I slowly began to see that I had changed. My work life goals had changed. My entire “brand” as a psychologist had changed. No longer enamored of numbers alone, I wanted to delve into more of “whys” of behavior in the workplace. What caused contributors to feel safe and do their best work? What must an organization do to facilitate excellence?

I found myself thinking more and more about organizational culture and how that motivates us.

It was unbelievable. I had gravitated — slowly but surely — toward the outcome of my qualification exams. But, I could borrow from my old path to make this path more comfortable. A quantitative focus did have a place. That place just needed to be tempered.

So, I’ll say this. Don’t limit your evolution. Embrace it. Lean into it and explore it. If you feel the need to shift your “brand”— do so. But above all, try not to ignore it.

Getting to know the new you — may simply be your destiny.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her posts on workplace topics have appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.



You Might be Overplaying the Competence Card: Here’s Why

Trapeze school, New York

You might be overplaying the “Competence Card” at work — and this may sound completely counter-intuitive. Most of have a tendency to believe that proving our skill set, is the best way to establish ourselves at work.

However, that decision may not be enough to reach solid footing.

As a new manager at a telecommunications company, I was hired based upon both my education and previous experience. However, I would learn that this was not all that mattered when interacting team members. In fact, I learned that my biggest problem was projecting warmth. During a presentation course, I was told repeatedly that I failed to smile during my talks. This in itself, was not a problem. However, this tendency coupled with the type of information I normally presented (customer opinions) could cause me problems. When I saw the video playback, they were absolutely correct. My over-emphasis on appearing professional had essentially backfired.

According to research completed at Harvard, one of our core drivers — safety — may be alerted when we form our initial impressions of others. This, in turn can affect our ability to form needed relationships. Amy Cuddy (and her team) have revealed that there are two criteria that must be answered when making initial impressions:

1.) Can I trust this person?
2.) Can I respect this person?

Interestingly, the notion of “trustworthiness” appears to take precedence over the latter. This can have a tremendous impact on our work lives —including key interactions such as employment interviews, presentations and networking opportunities.

Apparently trust trumps competence.

Who knew?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. Their new tool, The Alliance Diagnostic examines how organizational culture supports entrepreneurial thinking and career growth.


2015 in Review: I’m Grateful for the Bumps in the Road


I could write a long, rambling post about the work life elements that were a healthy challenge in 2015. However, that would really not serve you well. Personally, this was a “growth year” career-wise. I won’t sugar-coat it — offering you a tale that every aspect included a “silver lining”. The path was not that forgiving. I’m going to be honest. I explored and took missteps. I hit a few intersections and became impatient for the “light to change”. There were other moments where I lost my sense of direction, before righting the compass.

However, I am also grateful for much of it.

Progress of any kind — whether for an individual or an organization — is often hard fought.

In everyone’s path there should be a moment when you pause and ask the question: “What is my career mission?” (During the past 12 months I have pressed that question to the limit.) I have looked toward what I would hope to accomplish over the next few years, while balancing what I was willing to give up. These choices were daunting — yet completely career affirming. I’ve experienced first-hand, that if you find nothing in your work day touches that core mission, you’ll likely disengage. Shifting into reverse wasn’t going to “cut it”. Realizing this was an important moment.

I remain committed to my core career mission: “To help build healthy, sustainable workplaces.” I take this mission very personally. As a psychologist, I view the “engagement crisis” as a very personal failure.

The upside:

  • I see the challenge more clearly. For years, we all have been reading about the engagement crisis within organizations today. We’ve measured and re-measured our pain. However, we may be neglecting core elements that halt our progress forward. One issue: Developing organizational programs that once deployed, do not fight engagement. This isn’t entirely into focus. However, I’m glimpsing patterns that may solve the puzzle. I’m grateful for this.
  • Risk is central. I’m learning every day, that measured risk is a part of a meaningful career path. I didn’t always believe this. However, in the 21st century, we all have to re-calibrate our paths more frequently. Because we (and our workplaces) evolve, we find ourselves at inflection points that require decisions that are inherently risky. This happens to most of us. (Do I share that I am unhappy? Is sharing my idea going to help or hurt my path? Should I turn down a role that will not align with my career mission?)
  • Perfection is not the standard to create impact. We all harbor doubt. When launching into a new role, project or task — confidence can become the stumbling block that feels much like a brick wall. Remember that while you may feel unprepared — it’s likely that what you know is enough to impact the situation. Perfection is not the standard. Moving the needle is. I’m grateful, that I can help move that needle.

Growth is never a smooth process. More likely, it arrives unannounced.

In fact, sometimes it is not apparent — until you take that long look back.

When you look back on 2015, what do you see?

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist.  She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. Their new tool, The Alliance Diagnostic examines how organizational culture supports entrepreneurial thinking and career growth.

What Just Happened? Decoding the Job Interview


There is plenty of advice out there concerning what to say (and do) during an employment interview. However, there is little written about how to sort out the jumbled mess of emotions and observations that you are left with.  Even with the best of intentions and lists of smartly designed questions — interviewing is not (and never will be) a perfect process.

In some situations, you are not really sure what has actually transpired. In fact, you may leave feeling you know less about your potential future there, than when you began.

Over the years, I’ve sat in many job interviews. Interestingly, even with my background, I was a poor bet to predict the outcome. However, looking back I could have nailed down the “gestalt” of the interview. This might have offered a clue as to what was about to transpire next.

To be blunt, many organizations still do not have a clear structured interview process — and even if they do — the conversation could ramble “off the grid”. Paying close attention to these moments may offer needed clarity. I’m like to share a few of my interview experiences; including what was said and how I felt after initially reflecting on the interview. I’ll also let you know if I landed the role.

#1 – The Interview as a “Call for Help”
In many situations, organizations are not really sure what they need. You may have responded to a specific job posting, however when you arrive it’s clear the situation is quite fluid. Ultimately, their actual needs become cloudier as the conversation continues. My read: They are in flux — but at the same time the prospect of challenge and growth increases. Truth: If the interview smacks of this, inquire about what they likely need to accomplish right now. Size up whether or not you fill that need — and if you’d still like to pursue the relationship. Assess alignment and evaluate your chances from there. My scorecard with this scenario: Interviews 2; Adequate fit 0; Job Offers 0. (Quite satisfied with this outcome.)

#2 – Playing Close to the Cuff
Many interviewers present as so professional, it is difficult to get a read on them as a “human-being”. There is little feedback or emotion and you have absolutely no idea where you stand. My read: This a no-nonsense interaction. Chances are you wouldn’t be there if you were not qualified. If this is your potential boss, you’ll likely need to be a self-starter. Truth: You won’t know, until you know. (I left the interview thinking this, “I’m never going to step foot in here again.”) My scorecard with this scenario: Interviews 1; Job Offers 1. (Surprise.)

#3 – The Passive Aggressive Interview
These interviews feel like a boxing match. The interviewer seems determined to show you every “wart” of the organization and wait to see if you will call their bluff. It’s almost as if you are running a race — and with each successive hurdle you sustain an injury. Truth: I feel the interviewer(s) want you to be willing to endure, what they have endured. My read: The organization is likely unhealthy — so figure this into any decision. My scorecard: Interviews 3; Invitations to return for follow-up interviews 2 (Both respectfully declined.); Job Offers 0.

#4 – The “Non-Interview”
This is really an endorsement for considering shorter-term projects, that may set you up nicely to land a longer-term role. There have been times during my path that could have been described as either “in transition”, tied to a particular geographic location or faced with a job market that was simply very challenging. My read: Part-time or project-based roles are great realistic job previews for you and the employer. Every workplace situation is essentially an interview, so gather as much information as possible. Truth: Your built network is vital to finding these gems. My scorecard: “Interviews” 3 ; Job Offers 2 (Both a great fit).

What scenarios have you encountered? What were your strategies to “decode” the interview? Share them here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is the Director of Organizational Development at Allied Talent. A charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, her posts on workplace topics have also appeared in Forbes, The Huffington Post, US News & World Report and The World Economic Forum.