Dr. Sarabeth Berk is the leading expert on hybrid-professional identities, author of More Than My Title and an insightful TEDx speaker. Her hybrid title is Creative Disruptor because she works at the intersection of artistry, research, education, and design.
Today, Jonathan and Dr. Sarabeth discuss the work she is doing to help professionals better articulate their hybrid-professional identities and the unique value that identity offers the world.
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01:09 – Jonathan introduces today’s guest, Dr. Sarabeth Berk, who shares her eclectic background as a hybrid-professional and breaks down the three pillars of hybrid-professional identities
07:23 – Intersectionality, explained
12:28 – Common traits of hybrid-professionals and the inspiration behind Dr. Sarabeth’s book, More Than Your Title
17:31 – Why it is important to be self-aware about your role and be able to articulate your ‘hybridity’
22:58 – The five steps of identifying and articulating a hybrid professional role
26:00 – The best advice for differentiating yourself as a hybrid professional
28:22 – How hybridity benefits organizations
31:54 – Hybridity and the evolving landscape of the workspace
35:29 – The last thing Dr. Sarabeth changed her mind about and one thing that she would like people to know about her
36:24 – Jonathan thanks Dr. Sarabeth for joining the show and let’s listeners know where to connect with her
“I’m one of those people that’s had a multi-faceted career. I have not stayed in one thing. And a lot of that is because I always had this duality of interests. I loved academia and I loved learning, but I also loved art. And, how do you find a career that lets you be artistic but also professional and pays well?”(02:59)
“My definition of hybrid-professional identity is when you have multiple hats and you work at the intersection of those different professional identities. You’re actually integrating as opposed to just separating and being many things.”(07:00)
“How we see ourselves in our work is a noun. And that’s different from the title we usually are labeled. The primary research question that still exists today is ‘who are you at the intersections of your primary professional identities?’”(10:19)
“And so, suddenly, my very diverse background has a connection point which is my hybridity. So it’s you being able to share your value with the world in a way where they understand you the way you want to be seen and making sense is your competitive advantage.”(20:52)
“From a business ROI point of view, hybrid professionals can be at all levels of an organization. They can be at the C-Suite. They can be in management. They are people who are the silo-busters.”(31:06)
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Jonathan DeYoe: Welcome back to the 19th episode of the Mindful Money podcast. This season, we’re dedicating our conversations to the first rung of the personal financial ladder earning. On this episode of the Mindful Money podcast, I’m chatting with Dr. Sarabeth Berk She is an expert on hybrid professional identities. She’s a hybrid professional herself. She’s the author of more than my title and a TEDx speaker. Her hybrid title is creative disruptor because she works at the intersection of artistry, research, education, and design. In a nutshell, she helps professionals better articulate their hybrid professional identities and the unique value that identity offers the world. Now, I wanted to interview Sarabeth Beth on the show because of an experience I had working with my wife Kate on her consulting website a few years ago. Uh, I imagine lots of people struggle with this. She’s awesome at so many different things, but her expertise lies, like, in the intersection of those things, not in the things themselves. So it’s impossible to capture that in the language of a website. So, uh, this translates directly into her earning ability. So I’m really excited to have Dr. Sarabeth Berk on the Mindful Money podcast. Welcome.
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Thank you for having me, Jonathan. I can’t wait to dive in with you.
Jonathan DeYoe: So, Sarabeth Beth, where do you call home?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: I am in Denver, Colorado right now, about to move to Boulder, actually.
Jonathan DeYoe: I think I read in your bio at some point that you were a ski instructor, is that right?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yes, back in the day. What do you do after you graduate college? Go to the mountains, go ski.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. And you grew up in Denver, so.
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: I’ve been in Colorado most of my life. Grew up in the mountains and then left the state, traveled, did degrees, and came back to Denver about ten years ago.
Jonathan DeYoe: Okay, so can you tell us a little bit about your professional life before stumbling upon hybridity? Can I use that word, hybridity, as a topic?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, that’s perfect. Yes. Oh, my gosh. So I’m one of those people that’s had a multifaceted career. I have not stayed in one thing. I jump around, I look like I’m a zigzag career person. And a lot of that is because I’ve always had this duality of interests. I loved academia and I loved learning, but I also loved art. And how do you find a career that lets you be artistic but also professional and pays well? And so I started at a state university. Um, I think my first major was interior design. And then I quickly fell out of love with that and thought I would do computer science and then ten other majors. And eventually I realized the artistic side of me was really hungry, and it wasn’t being fed, and I couldn’t just be an academic. And so I transferred to art school, and I found this beautiful degree called visual and critical studies that, uh, let me do studio art making with all this theory and critical review of the world. But when I graduated, I didn’t know what to do. It was such a strange degree. It fed my soul, but it didn’t have application in the job market. And eventually I went into the classroom and I taught. I got another master’s. I worked in nonprofits. I kind of bounced around, and I didn’t know where I fit is kind of the bottom line. I didn’t know myself, and people are like, well, just do what you love and what’s your passion and what are you good at? Which is great career advice. But I felt like I never was fully showing up as all the different parts of myself in a job. I was compartmentalizing and being pigeonholed. So I decided to get my PhD to sort of unlock my potential and get the credential I thought I was missing. But when I got my PhD, I had a huge professional identity. Cris. Like, I just lost sense of who I was. And people would say, well, what do you want to do next, and why are you getting this degree? And I didn’t have an answer. And it’s shameful. It’s really personal when you feel like you don’t know how to answer the what do you do? Question. And what I actually did is turned this topic into my dissertation research. I started studying and interviewing and observing people about how are you? More than your job title? Like, what does your job title really mean? Because my hope was, if I could understand how other people figured it out, then I could solve this problem for myself. And eventually, the more people I talked to, the more I realized a job title is not a, uh, full signifier of who they really are. There are so many identities beneath that that makes them good at what they do, and they just don’t even realize that. And the quintessential unlock that helped me on this journey was realizing there can be an intersection between the different parts of them. So that’s a little bit of my winding career path, of how I went from art and design and, uh, into research, and now as this professional identity researcher, as well as identity reframer and helping people realize their full potential of all their professional identities and the value that has in the workforce.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I think just using the word hybrid or riffing on the word hybrid, I think that when people think about hybrid today, they’re thinking about the hybrid work environment. They’re thinking about, I work part time at home and part time in the office. So what is it you’re talking about? A hybrid professional? I don’t think. Is that so? What is it you’re talking about?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Great question. So I started this research ten years ago, before this hybrid work world became so big with the pandemic. And it’s been ironic and then also tricky because the language is similar. So if we open up our vision like more of a macro view of hybrid work, I have three pillars that I believe the hybrid workforce entails. It’s the who, the what, and the where. So the where is hybrid work? When work is both digital and in person remote. In person, that combo, that’s where work happens. When we talk about hybrid jobs, that’s the what. When jobs get combined. So, like, a biz DevOps team has some hybridity in the skills and the way that department functions. But the who of hybrid is talent. It’s when people’s identities are blending. And what I mean by that, my definition of hybrid professional identity is when you have multiple hats and you work at the intersection of those different professional identities, you’re actually integrating, as opposed to just separating and being many things. So that’s the key distinction, is an intersection between your professional identities is the new identity you really have a hybrid.
Jonathan DeYoe: One, I think, that opens up a whole other sort of can of worms. When you talk about intersectionality today, do you end up trying to explain that around that can you topic?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, great question. So, in my dissertation work, it was inspired by race, class, and gender studies. I was doing all this coursework where you had to understand that, and I learned the term intersectionality, that a person is a combination of race, class, and gender. And, in fact, our identity as a human is multidimensional. We have age and ability and geographic location. There are so many different parts of us. So I started to question, can you have intersectionality in your professional identity? And so when you meet someone who’s a jacker, Jane of all trades, or they say, I wear a lot of hats, and I’m a polymath. I’m multi talented, then my question is, who are you at the intersection of those different hats? And so, intersectionality absolutely exists for some people in the workforce. This is not an all or nothing. Some people feel this is them. Um, other people are still just a jack of all trades, and other people are just an expert. There are a variety of types of identities.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. I’m always a little afraid to ask this question of a researcher, but since you’re also a hybrid identity, I think it’ll be okay. Can you tell us about the data? Like, what did you study? Did you talk to employees, employers, the work environment? What is it, and what kind of questions did you ask?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, data question. This is hard hitting. So, for the dissertation, I had to pick a narrow focus. So I was specifically in the field of education and people that were in teaching. But the label of teacher is pretty loaded, right? A lot of people call themselves a teacher, but this person’s a math teacher, this person’s a science teacher, this person’s the wood shop teacher. They’re not teaching in the same way or the same content or the same style. And so I was like, hm. So I did case studies for my dissertation, and I used a very interesting methodology called autography. We can talk about that later if you want. But it was a lot of observation, interviews, and then recording that data, uh, transcribing it, looking at themes that were emerging, a little bit of like an autoethnography and ethnographic approach. I took that information that helped me get the findings, which sort of sparked when I finished the dissertation. I knew I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t feel ready. So then I did a lot of informal research after the dissertation, which was more casual? Conversations with people over coffee or over virtual networking, learning about how they saw themselves. And that’s when it became a cross sector participant sample. So people from all different industries, walks of life, ages, demographics, it became very wide, and the themes and patterns were still consistent. So questions I would ask people were things like, what do you call yourself? So they would usually tell me their job title, and then I’d ask, well, what is your professional identity? Because your identity is not your job title. How we see ourselves in our work is a noun, and that’s different than the title we usually are labeled. So a lot of people would be caught off guard, and I’d have to kind of push in and ask them and tell them about it’s a noun. And I’d say, do you ever feel like you don’t belong or fit in? Can you tell me about a time when you’re sort of breaking boundaries or silos? And if they had some answer around that, it would be leaning into the hybridity space because it’s an intersection. And the primary research question that still exists today is, who are you? At the intersections of your primary professional identities. So out of the landscape of identities we have in our work, because people could have 10, 20, 30 hats they wear, there’s only two, three or four that I call are your primary. The ones that light you up, you use the most. There’s a high frequency of them. They are your greatest areas of expertise, bring you joy, and you want to be known for these. All the other identities might be nice to haves, not must haves or use sometimes not all the time, or you do them because you have to, they’re not your favorite. So those are secondary or tertiary. Helping people even establish a primary professional identity, knowing what that is for them is a big deal. So, um, those are some of my research questions and things I play with.
Jonathan DeYoe: So when you’ve interviewed tons and tons of people as a percentage, how many folks do you think are true hybrid professionals?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Wow. What’s been interesting, some people have done polls on LinkedIn. Either they’ve done it on their own and tagged me. And so I’ve watched results and I’d say there’s no easy way to answer this because it’s self reported data, first of all, and it’s self perceived. So in the moment, I can be a hybrid professional right now, and then ten minutes from now, I might just be making art and I’m switching gears, but I’d say knowing that I can move in and out of being singularity, like one identity, and then back into hybridity, that already shows I have the competence of knowing my identity. So, uh, maybe it could be anywhere between a third of the population to 40, 50%. It kind of depends on how people are perceiving themselves. That’s my rough estimate.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Are there, like, common markers? Somebody that says such and such? They’re obviously a hybrid professional. What would be some of those common markers?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, there’s definitely indicators. And, um, in my book, more than my title, there’s a chapter where I talk about being an emerging hybrid professional versus being established. So at this stage, where people are uncomfortable in their career, they’re like, I don’t know where I fit. People don’t get me. I don’t know how to explain what I do, but I know there’s more there. Those are signs to me. They might be emerging into understanding there’s hybridity, but they don’t know how to talk or think about it yet. But some people think they are in hybridity, and really, you never find integration or an intersection. They’re just m in, um, what I call multiplicity. They keep moving between the different hats. So signs and indicators I look for are things like someone who is a pattern recognizer, so they kind of see things that other people miss. And especially between unrelated topics or subjects, they tend to be a silo buster. People call them a rebel, oftentimes innovators or people that are challenging the status quo because they’re disrupting the normal way of doing things. And they’re interdisciplinary thinkers. Those are certain qualities and characteristics I tend to find in this hybrid professional identity.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So I think you touched on this, but I want to pull on the thread a little bit more. How did you go from doing the research, having your own aha, huh. Moment about your own hybrid identity to writing the book and starting what I think I could call a coaching business instead of going back into academia?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, I’m still kind of shaking my head because I never expected to get here. Right. Like, this was not on the career path of Sarabath’s life of, like, go to art school, teach for a bit, get a PhD, and become a thought leader of hybrid professional identity. So I love that I’m sort of living my own story. It is self experienced, like, auto ethnographic research that’s become very widely resonant. So when I was doing the dissertation, there was a lot of artwork that I was looking at. Ironically, when I was seeing all the data. And the data, when you’re at the stage that you’ve collected all this data, you get just, you’re like, what does it mean? And I flipped through this art book of surrealist paintings by Renee McGreet, and four of the paintings just resonated with me that these are the findings I’m hearing in the data. So that, to me, is already my hybridity, making meaning of words and language by looking at paintings. People don’t do that. So I saw an image that McGreet had painted of a fish and a human combined. The painting is called the collective invention. And this fish, human, is laying on a beach like it’s washed up on shore. And usually you would call that a mermaid, because the bottom half is a fish and the top is a woman. But in this case, he reversed it. So the top was the fish and the bottom was the woman. And you were, like, confused. You’re like, what the heck did he do that? The strangest, ugliest, awful. Like, what is this? And I was like, but that’s how I feel in my work. I’m a combination of two or more very different things, and I’m a whole new creature. And that creature defies language. So that was step one, having these paintings help me see findings and name them. And then I, uh, needed a break, so I took a year off before I started writing, after I defended the dissertation. And I also didn’t trust that I was ready to write in a voice that people could read. I was such an academic writer at that time. But slowly but surely, the conversations I had in talking to people about their identity gave me reassurance that I’m gaining more stories and I’m onto something. And then I got the courage to apply for a TED talk, because I felt ready to do that, and I got accepted. And so doing a TEd talk really helped me shrink down my idea into a nine minute speech. And when you do that, you have to get tight and sharp and just clear. And so that’s actually when the research switched into the singularity multiplicity hybridity framework, which is pretty much the ground of what I talk about. And then people start asking, well, when’s the book coming out? When you get the TEDx done, they’re like, this is great. Where’s the book? And I had already been working on a workbook because the tools were more important. First, people would say, how did you figure this out for yourself? And so the teacher in me is like, I can show you. Let me make a handout and draw a ven diagram. And if you’ve ever done a design process, you’re testing a lot, and you’re iterating. And so I’d show people a ah, worksheet, and they’d do it and they’d go, but how did I get to this point or what comes next? I was like, oh, there’s more pages, there’s more steps. So I ended up making a 90 page workbook. And then it’s like that divine intervention came m and I knew I was ready to write the book, and it had to come out of me. There was just this click. And so I wrote the book in less than six months and had it published. And that’s kind of my story.
Jonathan DeYoe: Well, it took me seven years to write my book, but I’m very proud of getting it done. So even in seven years, it’s six months. Amazing. I find the data really interesting, the fact that it’s happening so rapidly at this point. And, uh, I want to go back to the opening and just ask, so what? Why does it matter to the hybrid professional to be able to articulate this unique value proposition or their hybrid identity? Why is it important?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: There’s a few factors. First, let’s start on a societal level. So we are no longer in a binary world. We’ve already seen that with gender identity. People saying, I’m non binary, I’m fluid. There’s a spectrum of ways you can show up. That is also true in the workforce. But we’re still stuck. We look at people as either an expert or a generalist. And if you’re somewhere in between, you’re a jack of all trades, and you’re never clear about your value because you don’t know how to express it. Also, the future of work and where the workforce is going, there’s two factors happening. One is our career spans are ever growing. It’s no longer go to school, get a degree, work for 30 years, retire in your 60s. People have second and third and encore careers. Uh, the transitions that happen are multiple, and people retire maybe in their 80s, who knows? So with the increase of the career span, it means people have more opportunity to gain more professional identities and to change their identity and have multiple areas of expertise. And then also in the future of work is this idea that as more industries are being created, oftentimes they are integrating. So we’ve seen like fintech or ag tech, like different sectors converging, and inconvergence means you need people that understand both. And so you need hybrid workers in new hybrid industries and product lines and so forth. So the value for people is, first of all, self knowledge, self awareness that you are not your job title. And if you just use past job titles, to define you. That shows lack of self awareness and you’re not really talking about who you are, you’re just using past labels. The other part is the personal branding and marketing that if you are clear. So I’ll use myself as an example. I see myself as an artist and a researcher and designer and an educator. Those four are my primary professional identities. It took me a long time to realize all four of those are critical to my fulfillment in achieving my purpose and the highest work that I want to do in the world. When I let go of any of those, I don’t feel complete. So those are so critical to me. And I acknowledged that. But then I was like, who am I when I’m four identities at the same time? It’s that simultaneity that’s the hybrid version of me, and I needed to name it something. For some people, this matters, other it doesn’t. That’s a caveat. But for me, the name that emerged is creative disruptor. That when I’m truly in my highest functioning version of me, that is what I’m m doing in the world, and it’s a good thing. And because I created a label that maybe you’ve never heard of before or it doesn’t fit the mold, the uniqueness is a strong part of the value, but also I get to define it. The way I describe why I am a creative disruptor and what that does for you or a client or an employer, that makes me make sense and shows the connection between all my past experience. I can say when I was in the classroom, I was a creative disruptor because I did this. And when I did this project for this entrepreneurship program, I was a creative disruptor in this way. And so suddenly my very diverse background has a connection point, which is my hybridity. So it’s you being able to share your value with the world in a way where they understand you, the way you want to be seen, and making sense is your competitive advantage. It helps your value become clear.
Jonathan DeYoe: So you’re actually counseling that you go through this process and then say, I’m going to apply for a job. I use that creative disruptor. I use my new hybrid identity as my job title in my attempt to get a new job or my attempt to explain myself, and then that maybe piques an interest of the employer and says, what do you mean by this creative disruptor thing? And that opens up a conversation where I can show value. Is that kind of how that would work in practice?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, essentially, you did a really good job unpacking that naturally, there is a research rationale and there’s a hybrid elevator pitch. I teach people. But what you’re doing is, first of all, novelty. You’re naming something that’s unnamed. You’re like, I don’t know who I am. This intersectional thing, let me name it. And you name it with authenticity. It’s not random. And so a gentleman I worked with, I think he had a phd in philosophy, and he was a researcher, but also a project manager. And he didn’t feel seen or understood in his work. And he went for an interview and he worked with me, and he’s like, actually, I realized who I am. I’m attention methodologist. I’m always balancing and managing how do we sort who’s doing what in the project and the timeline? And so when he went into his job interview and they asked that perfect question, tell us about yourself. Instead of him saying, well, I just worked as a project manager doing that, typical story, he said, well, I see myself as attention methodologist, because when I’m doing project management, these other things that I do, this and this and this happens. And he said the response and reaction he got from the interview team was like, oh, my God, we need attention methodologists. Like, you just named the thing we didn’t know we needed, but that’s like it. So when you can clarify yourself that way, it helps people connect with you. Yeah, that’s kind of the bottom line here.
Jonathan DeYoe: So we may not have time to go through the whole process, but can you begin us, start us through this process if it’s too much, just maybe a couple of steps. How do I articulate my hybrid identity? Or how do I begin to understand my hybrid identity?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, I’ll kind of walk you through the workbook. So there’s the book, and then the workbook complements the action steps. How do I do this for myself? And I have courses on that too, but there’s roughly five steps. The first step is sort of a baseline, like, who are you right now? How do you see yourself? Talk about yourself. The second step is professional identity decoding or unpacking. We lay the landscape of all the professional identities you have and really making it expansive and getting you aware of, like, wow, I didn’t even realize all this. Then we move into the intersections and we investigate. Well, if you have multiple professional identities, is there a connection? If so, how? And who are you in that intersection? That’s the messiest part of the process, because it’s mind blowing. People’s brains have never tried to interpret this about themselves before then we go into hybridization. Interesting language will emerge out of the intersectional reflection and storytelling. And we go, what do we do with these cool keywords like tension and methodologist and divine navigator? Like, really interesting words show up that are new identity words about you. And we start to form them into a title like creative disruptor. And the last step is owning it. It’s testing it both for yourself. Like, can I call myself a creative disruptor? That’s so weird. I don’t know. It’s a self esteem, self confidence thing, but also starting to test it with friends and family and then coworkers and putting into the world. So I take people from who they are now and how they see themselves to owning themselves, renaming and reframing who they truly are, and then helping them explain the value in sort of a pitch.
Jonathan DeYoe: You have to have some kind of a tool. I’m just imagining a, um, normal person. There’s no such thing as a normal person. I’m just imagining somebody. You’re asking somebody. So tell me about all of your multiplicity of work identities. Let’s not get into the hybridization just yet, but let’s talk about all the different. I don’t know that I could list them all. You must have some kind of a tool that helps me circle this circle, know a list of things or something like that. Helps people do that, because I would invent it. I would invent stuff.
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Jonathan, you’re cheating. Yes, I do. I have a whole freebie section on my website, and probably one of my most popular downloads. The second most popular is the professional identity word list, where I generated about 150 words to kickstart people into thinking, what are my professional identities? But you’re also kind of queuing the dial. I have a really exciting product coming out, hopefully in two months, which is a deck of cards, and they are going to have identity words on them. And there’s three games I’m expecting people can do with these, and one is an identity word, sort like which identity words connect with you to help people start playing with new language. Yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: Wow. So, by the way, you should send us that link when you get that, and we’ll try to share that again. What’s the best advice you can give the hybrid professional? To differentiate themselves once they’ve gone through this process and they’re going to communicate with a potential client or maybe their boss for a raise or what have you, how do they use this information to really differentiate themselves from their peer group or competitors?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, so the process I outlined, the five steps a moment ago, um, is something you can go through the steps and understand it intellectually pretty fast, but really embracing it and embodying it and doing the reflection takes time. It probably takes people six months to a year, is about the timing I see when it’s really clicking and the results are starting to translate. So the easiest tool you can walk away right now is just saying, I work at the intersection of and then x, y, and z. Because helping use that cue of an intersection changes that. You don’t just do these many things. There’s a space between them that you are in. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have a name for the space, but the intersection is the cue. I’m between these things. So that’s a tool I see people using pretty simply on their LinkedIn. And even in conversation, like, yeah, I’m the strategist, but I work at the intersection of business and leadership and strengths finders or something.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, when you think about employees over time. I’m thinking about my dad. My dad got his degree, was in, I think, mechanical engineering, ended up being an electrical engineer, ended up getting an MBA and doing a bunch of stuff. And this is like 50 years ago, right? So was anybody talking about hybrid specialization or hybrid identity 50 years ago? Is there a history to this conversation?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Oh, there’s absolutely a history of its existence, but the language we’ve been missing, it’s like the elephant in the room. People didn’t know to call it an elephant. So I would argue, going back to Leonardo da Vinci, he was a polymath. We’ve called him that quite often. But he was absolutely integrating architecture and engineering and the arts and all these parts into his ability to do and design what he did. Yeah, it’s just we didn’t think to use the word hybrid. And I think that’s the fresh new energy I’m helping people accept and realize, first of all, this exists. Second of all, awareness. Oh, my gosh, this might be the term about me I didn’t know to use. And then third, how do I figure this out about myself? How do I put this into the world?
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So can we talk about the benefit this would have for companies? Let’s say a company says, oh, this is really interesting research. If we brought it into our teams, into our culture, what does it do to a company that actually embraces this?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yeah, there’s a few facets on this. One is just the employee retention and engagement performance side. And then the other one, I think, is the business value. Right? Like the ROI for a company. So from an employee side, if you don’t feel seen, if you don’t feel you belong, if you don’t feel people understand you, if you don’t feel like you can show up and perform with these different sides of you, you’re going to leave. You’re not going to be satisfied. So even from hiring, even all the way up to a job description, I’ve seen some really exemplary ones that say, we’re looking for a hybrid professional who works at the intersection of graphic design with coding and understands biology. Because we’re a scientific company or something. They’re very clear about the space between that they need someone to be in and that this position is converging and marrying those things together. So I’m hoping more job descriptions are clear about hybridity. Then in the interview, it’s saying, hey, tell us about your professional identity, as opposed to just tell us who you are. And even coaching and saying, do you think you’re more in singularity or more in multiplicity or more in hybrid? And let us explain what we mean by those. Singularity is more stay in one lane. Be more of a deep expert in something. Multiplicity is someone who likes to jump around and have a lot of projects on their plate, but those projects don’t have to be connected in any way. And the hybrid is the silo buster. They’re someone who loves to move in between teams because they speak both languages or understand complexity of topics. It’s the interdisciplinary person. And so those are three different ways you want workers to be. And talking about that in an interview helps look for fit and match in the right person. And then I think when you’re on a team and you’re working with your manager, it’s having identity conversations like, hey, Sarabeth Beth, uh, are you able to show up as a hybrid? Like, which identities are you leaning into in this role? Do you need, more or less, can you talk about how this project is better because you use your hybridity? Like, what results did you see? So, having those conversations? And then lastly, I’d say an identity retreat. So, with companies, they ask, how do we help each other bond and build culture around different identities? And not just the race, class, gender, like the DEI work, but their professional identity. And so I do work with them, um, running workshops on how do you see Joe and how do you see Jane, and how do we build understanding so we can perform better through an identity lens? So that would be the kind of the HR talent end from a business ROI point of view. Hybrid professionals can be at all levels of an organization. They can be at the C suite, they can be in management. They are people who are the silo busters. So if you are taking someone who quote unquote, is in multiplicity, and you’re like, I need you to help get the client facing team working with the product team, and that person isn’t able to integrate, they don’t have that natural tendency. That person’s going to suffer and underperform. So you need to find the hybrid person who can play both sides seamlessly and start to find efficiencies and just bring that value at. So the hybrid, I think, really helps bring connectivity and collaboration and more streamlining in ways of building process that just didn’t exist.
Jonathan DeYoe: Just think about the long history of the workforce and workforce development. There’s been a lot of research in the last 15 years about the unhappiness of most employees and the disengagement of most employees. And at the same time, I think we can agree that the specificity of the tasks, it used to be that some guy would sit on a line and turn a bolt. Right now, it’s like there’s many, many things that everyone has to deal with. So there’s sort of a natural progression of more and more and more hybrid, more complexity, more hybridity.
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Yes.
Jonathan DeYoe: And I imagine this keeps going. So have you put this within the context of the changing work world? And how do people, looking forward ten years going to college, now people are just starting to launch and go to college. What should they be thinking about in terms of developing this hybrid?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: That was a great question, a huge one. From a historical and future perspective on hybridity, it’s a divergence and a convergence. So ten years ago, we didn’t know what a social media influencer was, but we saw people. Now, unfortunately, now we know way too many. Everyone is one, right? And we didn’t even have a name, but we saw people doing marketing and storytelling and taking photos and doing all these things and putting it together, and we’re like, okay, what do we call that person? And we didn’t even know what to hire that person for or what title to give them. So that was the point where things that were initially divergent came to a point and converged into a hybrid thing, the social media influencer. But now it’s converged and it’s become mainstream, and so it’s no longer as hybrid. It has more of the singularity again, so things come together and then can branch out again. Another example, when you mentioned the engineering years ago, you’d go to engineering school and be a chemical engineer or an electrical engineer. But today there is a field called biogeochemical engineering that’s three in one. I don’t even know how that works, but I know it exists. And so it’s like, did you get three degrees? No, that’s a whole new field that exists. So it’s interesting how this happens over time. And an analogy to help with this is from horticulture. When they cross breed two parent plants, they want to take. It’s literally called hybridization. They’re taking the best traits from the two parents to make an offspring that has this hybrid vigor. So they’re becoming one plant. So we’re doing that with our own professional identities. There’s, like a cross breeding and hybridization going on so into the future, I think it’s just this cycle of things that are diverging and converging. Now, you had one more part to this question, which was students in college, and what do we tell them today? I think there’s some interesting things naturally happening. We still have the traditional choose a major, choose a minor, and they tend to be disciplinary focused, one discipline. But some universities have integrated majors or interdisciplinary degrees or design. Your own degree is even a choice. I do some consulting with MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and UPenn because they have the integrated design management program. That is a new degree for people that are designers, business majors, and engineers in one, because they see an intersection that the future employers need. Now, there’s still a little disconnect. Employers don’t know they’re looking for. It’s called IDM majors. But when those students go out, they’re more competitive because they understand three things combined. So when we’re on these edges, it’s hard for the marketplace to keep up, but yet they’re on the leading edge. So that’s my advice on that.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. And, uh, unfortunately, we’re sort of running close to time here, but I have a couple sort of not zinger questions that I like to ask here at the end, but I want to try to catch you in something. So, yeah, we’re nice. So what was the last thing you changed your mind about?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: The last thing I changed my mind about?
Jonathan DeYoe: This is a really important question to ask academics.
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Motorcycles. It happened just the other day. I didn’t think I liked motorcycles, and I rode on the back of one last week, and I was like, this is actually really fun. So now I’m maybe thinking more about motorcycles.
Jonathan DeYoe: Oh, wow. That’s what I’ve heard. That’s great. Stay safe. Stay safe.
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: Okay.
Jonathan DeYoe: Is there anything that either people don’t remember or don’t know about you that you’d really like them to know?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: I mean, I think that people don’t remember. I’m very creative. I think people forget that I still make art and I have an artistic practice, and that’s not something I share as much as maybe people realize.
Jonathan DeYoe: Why is that important that people know that?
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: I think because it does substantiate there is a creative spirit. It’s not just I talk about loving creativity, it’s part of me. And when I don’t do it, I feel like, oh, I need to get back to it.
Jonathan DeYoe: Very cool. We’ll make sure everything is in the show notes. Share us that link when you have the link to the new course or product that’s coming out. And I just want to say thank you for being on the Mindful Money podcast. I very much appreciated the conversation and I believe our audience will benefit from it.
Dr. Sarabeth Berk: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this and I hope people can come to. There’s a lot of great stuff there.
Jonathan DeYoe: All right, thank you