We May Not Have a Clear Path, But We Each Have One

by | Oct 24, 2023 | Career Development, I-O Psychology | 0 comments

This morning, I attended a Momentum session of the Society for Evidence-Based Organizational Consulting (SEBOC). Facilitated by Christina Walsh, the topic of discussion involved the “refraction points” (Nour, 2023) in our lives and careers, which bend our trajectory in new directions. This group of Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology practitioners took turns sharing how they found their way toward our aligned passions of how people think and behave in the workplace.

Each person had some critical incident or formative experience to share, which brought them learning about workplace psychology. Some worked within toxic environments and said to themselves, “Enough is enough; another better way must exist.” Another found their way through guidance from a therapist. Others received mentorship from experts.

At the time of writing this, I am 47 years of age. I started working at the age of 16 in 1992 as an industrial cleaner on nights and weekends with my friend Mark. I recall several of these refraction points, which all seem to bend back toward I-O Psychology. In fact, I have a hard time telling which point(s) may have had the most impact on my career.

  • In 1994, at the age of 18, Cindy took a chance on me to become a percussion instructor at St. Rita High School, where I learned to develop group and individualized training toward specific goals — namely, competing in band competitions or performing in concerts. I did this while attending UChicago and picking up extra cash cleaning industrial carpets, being a production artist for GES Exposition Services during the summer, or working a Blockbuster. L&D, goal-setting theory of motivation, and leadership training took shape during those five years with the band.
  • In 1997, Jim promoted me from CSR (customer service representative) to assistant manager of Blockbuster within a few months just prior to my graduation from college. Here I learned how to improve performance by working as a team and the value of transformational leadership from intrinsically motivated people.
  • In 1999, rock-and-roll legend Rikk promoted me within six months from sales associate and drum department head at Sam Ash Music to Operations Manager, where I not only led a warehouse crew, but I became the regional trainer on an Oracle-based POS system at the age of 23. I also handled recruitment, payroll, inventory management, and other store operations. Here, the rubber met the road when I could take how I learned to train others at St. Rita and manage others at Blockbuster and combine them to develop and implement training for salespeople, operations staff, cashiers, and line managers.
  • In 2001, Michael hired a no-name like me after an informational interview to become the Associate Marketing Director for GIA Publications. He entrusted me to craft my own job, manage my own way of doing things, and develop and refine systems for various marketing jobs, from trade show exhibits to catalog publishing. Here, Michael showed me how empathy, planning, and a sense of humor can pay dividends to an organization’s success as we smashed sales records year over year.
  • In 2005, I completed my MBA at Capella University while working full-time at GIA. I gained my first consulting client, a small mental health counseling service. This opened the doors to discovering how consultants can collaborate with business owners or executives to make meaningful changes within an organization. Subsequently, we created a new brand image, website, and promotional processes, which expanded the reach of the organization to boost business and provide succession opportunities.
  • In 2006, after attaining my MBA, I answered the clarion call of entrepreneurship and started my own business, Behold! Signs and Graphic Solutions. In this role, I performed all aspects of business. But, by far, the human resources aspect became my favorite part of owning that company. It meant something to me when our employees, Tony and Mike, said that I was their best boss. I really handled every aspect of the human resources spectrum, including job analysis, selection, training and development, talent management, rewards and benefits structures, compliance, and termination.
  • In 2009, the recession from 2008 forced me to pivot, sell the business, and reenter consulting full-time. I relearned consulting through mentorship and guidance from my best friend Jim and other peers I gained along the way on my entrepreneurial journey, including Jean, Renee, Alex, and Kevin. I also learned project management from PMI via a WIA (Workforce Investment Act) grant, which comes in handy in I-O Psychology projects.
  • In 2019, after having served several organizations as a marketing executive in various industries since 2011, I sought professional career counseling from a master practitioner, Donna. Donna helped me understand me and my motivations and my work preferences through reliable and valid assessment instruments. I further validated our findings through a battery of aptitude tests to discover that I thrive in positions offering social, creative/artistic, and enterprising roles where I can leverage inductive and deductive reasoning to solve problems and restore organizations.
  • In 2020, I enrolled at Purdue Global to begin my academic journey in I-O Psychology.
  • In 2021, Dr. Casey DeBruyn recommended, based on my interests and the content of my schoolwork, that I consider organizational development (OD) and change management as career paths in consulting. I also committed to becoming a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) to grow and prove my consulting competencies around an ethical framework.
  • In 2023, I attained my SHRM-CP certification, joined the Society of Evidence-Based Organizational Consulting and started participating in their WorkCookie Podcasts, graduated with an MS in I-O Psychology from Purdue with a whole lot of other bright students, and enrolled in a certification course in OD and Change Management Consulting from The Drucker School of Management of Claremont Graduate University taught by OD expert and consultant Alan Landers.

Whew! That’s a lot of bending!

French Inspiration for Career Crisis

My colleague and fellow Purdue graduate, Sharyl Volpe, recently visited France. In a shop at the hotel in which she stayed, she found card decks published by The School of Life — a British organization committed to promoting fulfilling lives for people. Sharyl sent me a photo before she purchased one of the decks. What a funny place to find wisdom — a hotel lobby shop!

I recently purchased a set of their Career Crisis cards. The magnificently decorated box contained a set of high-quality cards, each of which provides prompts for thought or action to reflect upon what brought us to our current career state and project where we intend to take our careers. This toolbox intends to “unblock career crises and free up our thinking around work — setting us on a path to a job that will tap into the best parts of us.

This deck of cards is designed to assist individuals in moments of career uncertainty and anxiety. Each card in the deck provides a thought or an idea intended to provoke reflection and insight into one’s professional journey. Among the exercises prompted by the cards, I pulled one that had me map my career like a river with all of its tributaries starting at a young grammar-school age. Here’s a photo of that river:

The School of Life

Philosopher and author Alain de Botton founded The School of Life in 2008. The organization aims to offer insights and wisdom from various academic disciplines to help people navigate through life’s challenges. The organization provides classes, therapies, online content, and a range of products designed to stimulate thought and help individuals lead more fulfilled lives. They offer an app for Android and iOS. I also recommend reading the book or getting the Audible book of The School of Life.

Alain de Botton (2019), in his book, mentioned that, in the old days, people had no such thing as job fulfillment. They simply went into the family business or fell into some vocation that purely paid the bills. In today’s society, we have career choices. We can choose to follow a true vocation — such as consulting, in my case — to find proper job satisfaction, meaningful and purposeful work, and the motivation to do our work at our best each day.

Today’s exercise with the group and working with this Career Crisis card deck have illustrated that I have been placed on the right path. My involuntary removal from my vice-president role (more on that in another post) further amplifies my conviction that the path does not solely include creating marketing plans, building websites, or creating email drip campaigns — though, as a business owner, I will require myself to perform these tasks for me and, likely, to my clients at some point. My purpose and the purpose of the consulting company we are building lies in helping organizations and the people who work there harness the true power of the human capital from which they derive value to meet their strategic objectives.

References

De Botton, A. (2019). The School of Life: An Emotional Education. The School of Life.

Nour, D. (2023). Relationship Economics: Transform Your Most Valuable Business Contacts Into Personal and Professional Success. Wiley.

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