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.