BGBS 062: Dr. Sarabeth Berk | More Than My Title | What Do You Do??
Dr. Sarabeth Berk is the leading expert in hybrid professional identity, and a hybrid professional herself. She was featured in Forbes and is a TEDx speaker, author, and recipient of a Colorado Inno on Fire award for her innovative work.
Through a decade of research and coaching, Sarabeth developed a one-of-a-kind approach that takes personal branding to a whole new level. Her hybrid title is Creative Disruptor because she blends her artist/researcher/educator/designer identities together to lead and create innovative strategies that radically connect resources and people in new ways.
Sarabeth obtained her PhD from the University of Denver, and has degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Rhode Island School of Design. Her background includes directing major initiatives in K-12, higher education, startups, and nonprofits.
In this episode, you’ll learn…
- Reflective tips and tricks to start identifying your uniqueness/hybridity
- How to answer the daunting question of “What do you do?”
- The benefits of finding your professional hybrid identity to pinpoint who you are at the intersection of your many strengths
Facebook: More Than My Title
LinkedIn: Sarabeth Berk
[16:03] My entire background has been about interdisciplinarity, and crossing things that are unrelated together, and finding new things at the intersection. So this has always been a heartbeat. And it comes from my creative background. It comes from experimenting with making meaning. I think that’s really who I am.
[22:48] Your hybridity is your special blend of spices that is unique to you. No one else has combined identities that way and that’s what makes you unique and strong in whatever you’re doing for work.
[26:50] The reason hybridity matters is because when you know the different parts that are important and you know why they fit together, then you know your uniqueness, you know why you’re different than all the other “roses” and “fish” and “dogs” because we’re all using these generic labels to try and just fit into boxes.
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Sarabeth Berk 0:02
And the zone of genius is a place where you’re in flow, you’re at your best, you’re most energized, alive, things are effortless. And in those moments, people were actually explaining without knowing they were saying it, how their parts, their different identities were being activated, if at the same time. So this one teacher was like, you know, I’m being an empath by hearing the problems with my students and giving them guidance and counseling, but I’m also sharing knowledge and also bringing in creativity. And I’m also this and also this. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, that’s the intersection. Like, is this really how it works that when we feel our best, and our work, we’re in the intersection of our of our work. And I started knowing I was onto something like that was the beginning of a hunch. So I kept checking it out testing it, right. Like I was trying to understand do more people have this too, and sure enough, they do.
Marc Gutman 0:58
Podcasting from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big Back stories, and I cannot lie. I am your host Marc Gutman. And on today’s episode of Baby Got Back story, I want to know, what do you do? Really? What do you do? If this question gives you pause? Or if you’ve ever felt anxious at a party or event? When someone asks you, what do you do? And there’s no real great way to say it? Not really, then stay tuned, because this episode is for you.
And before we get into the show, here’s a reminder, if you like and enjoy the show, please take a minute or two to rate and review us over at Apple podcasts or Spotify, Apple and Spotify use these ratings they really do as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. And we like ratings. So please go ahead and give us a review. If you like the show.
Today’s guest is Dr. Sarabeth Berk. In that question. What do you do? was a tough one for her to answer. She did many different things from design to research to innovation. And she never had a good answer to that. That question. I don’t know about you. But when I don’t have a good answer, I Google for it. Then I maybe read a blog. But Sarabeth, she went full researcher on the question, discovered that work professionals have many different identities and where those identities intersect. Well, that’s where the magic happens.
Today, Dr. Sarabeth Berk is the leading expert in hybrid professional identity, and a hybrid professional herself. She has been featured in Forbes and is a TEDx speaker, author and the recipient of a Colorado inno on fire Award for her innovative work. Sarabeth’s hybrid title is Creative Disruptor because she blends her artist, researcher, educator designer identities together to lead and create innovation strategies that radically Connect resources and people in new ways. Sarabeth obtained her PhD from the University of Denver, and has degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in the Rhode Island School of Design, so she knows what she’s talking about. Her background includes directing major initiatives in K through 12, higher education, startups and nonprofits. And this is her hybrid story.
I’m here with Sara Berk, the Creative Disruptor at More Than My Title, Sara, thanks for coming on the show. And let’s get right into it. What is a Creative Disruptor?
Sarabeth Berk 4:10
Hey, Marc, thanks for having me. Ah, the Creative Disruptor question. Well, essentially, I didn’t know what to call myself. I was more than my job title. And I did all this work, which we can talk about reflecting on like, Who am I really like, what do I want to be called? And I noticed I’m a person that challenges and pushes and changes information because I see it differently. And that was like that disrupter inside of me. But then also, I’m super creative. I come from an art background. And I’m always like visually, orienting things and making sense of like pictures and images. And I was like, I’m not just a disrupter. I’m like really creative and how I do it because I am like playing with tools and using design.
And that’s me in a nutshell, like that term is my identity in my work. And that’s why I call myself a Creative Disruptor. I’m changing things for the good.
Marc Gutman 5:10
Yeah, so thank you. And I neglected when I introduced you to, I forgot that you are Dr. Sarabeth Berk. And then I think that’s relevant. That’s important. We’ll talk about that. Because you’re a researcher, and an academic. And a lot of what we’re talking about is rooted in that research and that background.
But you, you started that with saying, I didn’t know what to call myself, like, why did that even matter? What why was that coming up as a problem for you like what was happening in your life where not knowing what to call yourself was an issue?
Sarabeth Berk 5:42
Marc, I don’t know how many parties you’ve been to, or networking events. But ultimately, everyone says, Hey, what do you do? Hey, nice to meet you. What do you do? And this, what do you do? Question plagued me, it really became the bane of my existence. Because I got super anxious. I was in a space in my life, where I wasn’t really secure in what my career was and what I was doing for work. I was finding myself and going through, like a job search career transition process. So I didn’t have an answer to that question. Like something solid, where I was like, yeah, I’m Sarabeth. I’m the blah, blah, blah. So when I was struggling with how to answer that question, I finally realized I was having an identity crisis, I have like, literally didn’t know who I was.
And that, to me launched this whole series of events where I got really curious on Who am I like, I’m not what people are calling me. I’m not just a teacher or designer. Like, there’s something else here. And I really wanted to figure that out.
Marc Gutman 6:40
This idea and the word that you just used in that story about identity? And has that’s been something you’ve always been interested in, like when you were growing up, were you, you might not have used those words, you might not have framed it as identity. But Was that something that that always either perplexed, confused or interested you?
Sarabeth Berk 7:01
I, I would say no, like, this isn’t something that was on my mind for years and years, it’s something that I realized was the root problem. I was circling around, but I never had a name for it. Like when I was trying to figure out what I was doing after college and how to build my career. The advice I often got from people as well figure out what you’re passionate about, like, let’s let’s talk about what your strengths, let’s figure out, you know, what you love to do and make your work fit that. So it was always about the what do you do and why? And how are you going to do it? No one ever stopped and asked me about who are you like, Who do you think you are? Like, what do you call yourself? That’s a different question. So this notion of identity came to me much later, because I realized, we were talking about something we weren’t really talking about, like there’s another piece of the puzzle that was missing.
Marc Gutman 7:56
And so that’s interesting. Let’s talk about that. So when you were growing up, what was your identity? Like? What did you think? Your let me rephrase? Who were you at the time? And then where would you think you’re gonna end up doing? What were you hoping to do?
Sarabeth Berk 8:07
Yeah, I mean, I was this perfect student, I was the straight a girl. I loved academics and art, that was really what I was up to. And so my identity for you know, the first 20 some years of my life was student, you know, like, you are a student. That’s what people tell you. And then you graduate high school or college or wherever you finish your degree, and you lose that identity. And literally, that’s when I dropped into my first identity crisis. But people told me Oh, you’re just burned out? Or, oh, you know, you’re just going through like a quarterlife crisis or something. No one ever said, you are having this identity moment. And so that first transition of going from student to Well, what am I now Who am I now? And then trying to figure out like, okay, who’s gonna hire me? Like, I don’t even know how to take my degree and turn it into a job.
I was a ski instructor after I graduated. Because I literally was like, where do I start. And then I eventually went back to grad school got a degree in art and design, when it’s a classroom worked for some nonprofits, and boom, then I felt a little more secure. Because what we usually do in society is you define yourself by your job. So when you’re in a job, you have security around your identity, you’re like, Oh, I’m Joe, the marketing manager, and I’m Sally, the coder and like you just have this sense of who you are based on what you do, because we spend the majority of our lives in our jobs. And literally research says that when you lose a loved one, go through divorce or lose a job. Those are the three biggest moments where you lose a sense of yourself. And I until you go through that you don’t realize how powerful you associate yourself with the thing you’re doing. So that was a little bit of how I started noticing I was having an identity crisis is when I lost it.
Marc Gutman 9:55
Yeah. And what I heard there is that like this idea of our identity and our identity changing and even being between identities. It’s, it’s not something like that happens just once it doesn’t just happen, you know, between our 20, you know, matriculating from through college to the working world, it can happen a lot of different times. And I think that, you know, at least my self, you know, I think about, like, how I approach it. Like, I feel guilty about that, or I feel like I’m doing something wrong, or and you and I have talked about this, I feel like shame that like, I don’t know how to identify, identify myself. Did you experience that at all? While while you were going through that transition?
Sarabeth Berk 10:35
100%? Yes. I mean, there’s so much wrapped up, I felt like a failure, I thought, vulnerable, full of guilt, my self worth my self confidence. We’re just all in the pits. I really was just like, I felt lost and confused. It’s a dissociative moment is what like psychology would say, and you just feel disconnected because you don’t know. Like, like your roots anymore. Your your foundation got taken from you. And so it’s a process of rebuilding and reinventing and finding yourself again. And I think it’s part of growth. I think life, like you just mentioned, puts us through these tests at different times. It’s not just once, I’m actually going through my fourth identity crisis right now. Like I’ve mapped them, and I’m on four right now. So they keep coming.
Marc Gutman 11:24
Yeah. And the Pro, the the leading expert, I hybridity and identity crisis is going through an identity crisis, which is great. You know, it’s like, it’s this isn’t like exclusively to other people. And so it’s something that we all go through. And so were you originally from Colorado? No, I was born on the east coast and Pennsylvania. And my family wanted to be in the West. They love the mountains. So I moved out to Colorado when I was in elementary school. Right. And then I want to go back to that moment when you were a ski instructor. So you wanted to be a ski instructor. Like, tell me about that? Like, what what was that? Like?
Sarabeth Berk 12:01
You know, I saw I graduated from undergrad I was in Chicago at the time I came back home to be with my parents. Everything just fell off kilter. And I became a barista at a coffee shop. And that was like the fall season. And I had done some summer camp, teaching with like people that were ski instructors, because I grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley by Aspen and Snowmass. So I had some contacts in the ski industry. And sure enough, I called them up and said, what does it take to be a Scottish doctor and they said, Come on down, apply, we’re hiring. And I made it as a rookie that year. So it was really just kind of going with the flow of life. But it was really good for me, because I, as I mentioned, I was so academic, when your ski instructor, it’s really about safety of the kids First, we always said the order is safety, fun, and then learning. And a lot of it was just letting go of structure and homework and research and like deep thinking it was like, go just be like have a job. That’s so much about enjoying life and meeting people and going skiing with kids all day. It was great.
Marc Gutman 13:12
Yeah. And so this is so interesting to me. So you and I’ve met recently, and certainly, the identity I know about you is, you know, an expert on hybridity and this topic of being, you know, trying to find, you know, how do I talk about myself, but like, when I look at your bio, this is kind of funny to me, because you and I did an event together. And I was super impressed with how like, you’re cranking out these these beautiful design assets and all this stuff. I was like, Wow, that’s really good. This, I didn’t realize that and I feel silly, because you always refer to yourself as an academic and you talk a lot about academics and, and research. And that’s, that’s how I categorize you. That’s how I see you and your identity. But you have this crazy background where you went to the Art Institute of Chicago and risk D, the Rhode Island School of Design, like, talk to me a little bit about that because just even that like you, you started saying like I was really into academics, academics, but you’re also really you were like a very serious like art student like how, like, talk me through that a little bit.
Sarabeth Berk 14:18
Yeah, I mean, I was a wallflower in high school, I need to go back to that moment. But my my creative outlet was art class, I always needed to take art every semester and I fell in love with my high school art teacher just because she was such an inspiration and just opened my eyes to like mediums and ideas I never seen. Like she didn’t let me get into senior studio, which is like the pinnacle of the high school experience because that was only for the most talented students. So I had this sense that I actually wasn’t good enough. So I tried to like focus on something more academic in college but eventually noticed. I love graphic design. I love interior design. I love drawing In painting, and I actually loved book art, I thought I wanted to be a book artists like paper making and bookbinding. And I said, screw it. I had started at one university, and I transferred and went to art school because that was such a deep desire that kept calling me.
So I picked a major in my undergrad that was actually 50/50 art and critical thinking, like I took any studio major I wanted, I didn’t have to focus on one, screen printing, puppetry fashion design, letterpress printing, I was all over the map. And then I was going into these classes, one was called trans modalities. And the professor Joseph Greg Lee, he’s actually deaf. And so he would talk to us about, he could speak but he had a translator about things like, how do you know the taste of a cigar, or the taste of wine when it’s written down on these cards, and my brain was going crazy with like making sense of translating information from one modality to another. And yet I’m doing these art forms where I’m doing mixed media practice.
So my entire background has been about interdisciplinarity, and crossing things that are unrelated together, and finding new things at the intersection. So this has always been a heartbeat. And it comes from my creative background. It comes from experimenting with making meaning I think that’s really who I am.
Marc Gutman 16:23
That’s great. And thank you so much for sharing that. And so, you know, you went to the arts to Chicago, you went to RisD like it, what point did you then start to think, Hey, I’m gonna like research this whole question of who am I and how do I talk about myself? Because I, you know, it’s one thing to be like, oh, I’ve got this problem. And I don’t like going to cocktail parties. And people say, what do you do? And I don’t, you know, and maybe you’d read some books. But you went a little further like, like, why? Like, why, like, what, how did that all transpire? And what drove you to really dive deep into the subject?
Sarabeth Berk 16:59
I think I started to feel like I was compartmentalizing myself. So I was in the classroom teaching art. And I got her crossroads, I knew I was ready to do more. I wanted to have leadership, I wanted to transform education, like I’m a person that wants to blow shit up and create new school systems. And like, you know, universities, k 12. None of it’s working. Let’s start over.
I’m an innovator that goes back to the disrupter too. And in order to do that, I needed people to see me as more than an art teacher like that was how people saw me serve if you teach art, and I was like I do. But I’m also actually on the side creating websites. And over here I’m making and selling art on Etsy. And, oh, I’m starting to learn about research because I was taking grad school on the side. And in order to leave the classroom, I started applying to jobs that weren’t teaching jobs. And in my cover letter, I noticed I started writing, I’m Sarabeth, and I’m an artist slash educator slash designer, I started using slashes. Because I needed people to see I have different sides to myself, because the teacher part was so strong and dominant. And by putting slashes, I was like, well, it’s not a comma. It’s not an and I’m like, I’m all of this mashed together. I don’t know how else to grammatically write it for people to see, like what I’m trying to explain.
So that was me, like, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the slash movement. But that’s like a thing people use. There’s also like the multi hyphen, people that put dashes. So I was already feeling that in myself, I just didn’t know, other people did this, too. And then I got to grad school, I decided to work on my doctorate full time, and I was working in an entrepreneurship creativity program on the side. And it was in my doctoral program where I really felt like, I just don’t know who I am anymore. Like, I’m not just a teacher. And yet, what am I?
And then I learned from honestly, the race, class and gender studies class, about intersectionality, that you actually are the sum of the intersection of all your different identities. And it was like, that’s interesting. Yeah, of course, I’m white, middle class woman, and blah, blah, blah, like all these identities, but what about my professional identity? Like I had this moment where I said, Can I ask that question? Just in the professional side of my life? Like, are there intersections between being an artist, designer, teacher, researcher, that became my research question. So because I was in a doctoral program where we’re learning to think and act this way, and we’re doing quantifiable research, I needed to pick a research topic. So it all kind of dived in that moment of like, my personal pain, the work I was learning to do, and then this curiosity that formed and then so as you as you got interested in this, like, what did you find? Yeah, it was like, where do we start with this? I couldn’t go around and ask people like, what are your intersections? Like, how do you see intersectionality Marc in your work because this was like two weird of a question that even i had never been asked before i didn’t know how to answer it.
so i started a case study of like five different individuals that i followed and observed and interviewed about their work because i thought am i just experiencing this or other people and how do i have a study around that and so i went and started talking to individuals about okay your title is blank you know this thing but what do you really do in that job and very quickly i started hearing people explain the different parts of themselves and then the theme that i started getting across all these interviews and observations was moments when people are just in their zone of genius you and i’ve talked about that before i love this this discussion and the zone of genius is a place where you’re in flow you’re at your best you’re most energized alive things are effortless and in those moments people were actually explaining without knowing they were saying it how their parts their different identities were being activated if at the same time so this one teacher was like you know i’m being an empath by hearing the problems of my students and giving them guidance and counseling but i’m also sharing knowledge and i’m also bringing in creativity and i’m also this one also this and i was like oh my gosh that’s the intersection like is this really how it works that when we feel our best and our work we’re in the intersection of our of our work and i started knowing i was on to something like that was the beginning of the hunch so i kept checking it out testing it right like i was trying to understand do more people have this too and sure enough they do.
Marc Gutman 21:37
so this is really interesting to me and something that i don’t think we’ve really talked about so i didn’t realize that effectively and correct me because i’m going to i’m going to kind of make a statement here that hybridity or that the spirit of it is really looking for that intersection and when you’re at your best at work do i have that right so that that’s really what we’re talking about here?
Sarabeth Berk 21:59
Yeah so my focus that i described today currently is hybrid professional identity that as humans we are already hybrid we’re a combination of all kinds of identities social personal political everything but i just examine the vein of your professional life and what you do for your work and when people say i do marketing oh but i also do sales and i also do events oh and i’m good at design i’m good at this suddenly you start to hear all the elements all the parts of them and what i’ve learned is that there’s a hybrid space in the professional side of people’s life that they don’t know how to articulate the best way i heard this explained yesterday with someone i was talking to you she says it’s your special blend like when you have all those spices and you combine your spice drawer to make something your hybridity is your special blend of spices that is unique to you no one else has combined identities that way and that’s what makes you unique and strong in whatever you’re doing for work
Marc Gutman 23:03
a common question i get all the time is Marc, can you help me with our brand? yes we help companies solve branding problems and the first step would be to schedule a no obligation brand clarity call we’ll link to that in the show notes or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email we’ll get you booked right away so whether you’re just getting started with a new business or whether you’ve done some work and need a refresh or whether you’re a brand that’s high performing and wants to stay there we can help after you book your brand clarity call you’ll learn about our brand audit and strategy process will identify if you need a new logo or just a refresh will determine if your business has a branding problem and you’ll see examples of our work and get relevant case studies we’ll also see if branding is holding your business back and can help you get to the next level so what are you waiting for build the brand you’ve always dreamed of again we’ll link to that in the show notes or head over to wildstory.com and send us an email now back to the show.
So when you— that’s really interesting to me like that you have all these special ingredients that become your your hybridity like like i get that like we want to activate what makes us special but like why is it so important that we’re focused on this like like why why does it matter?
Sarabeth Berk 24:41
totally yeah. i’m gonna reflect it back to you for a second and say Marc, when you tell people you do branding or your you have a brand agency Wildstory like don’t a lot of people do that like why do they come to you?
Marc Gutman 24:56
They do and you know i’m really this is really a question because i’ve struggled with this most people come to us because of our background in storytelling and things like that but i spent a lot of years talking about that like i’m a storyteller i you know this and that we’re storytelling agency and it wasn’t exactly leaning into the the idea of hybridity and what you do but what i did find is really confusing to a lot of people you know and they you know and so they didn’t get they didn’t get that and they meant different things to different people and so you know from a linguistic standpoint i’ve really gone back and forth on this topic and i’ve really thought about like do you use words that are already a schema that people understand to like have them understand what you do and then kind of talk about this idea of why or what makes us special or do you lead with that?
And so you know again i’d love to know like why so i guess what you’re saying and when you when you put it back on me is it matters because it helps you stand out and it helps you to differentiate but i mean have you experienced any of that yourself? Like where it becomes like a little bit like do you do you follow the norms and say i’m a marketer or do you say or you know do you say i’m a you know something else?
Sarabeth Berk 26:16
This is exactly what i’ve been looking at i’ve been doing it more on a personal like human level and i think you do it more for businesses and organizations i think the dilemma is pretty much the same essentially yes as humans our brains want to make sense of things we categorize things we label them so that we have that schema of understanding like this is a rose and that’s a dog that’s a horse but you know shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell a sweet right like we just gave it that name to give it a name.
So essentially, the reason hybridity matters is because when you know the different parts that are important like those special ingredients and you know why they fit together then you know your your uniqueness you know why you’re different than all the other roses and fish and dogs because we’re all using these generic labels to try and just fit into boxes like you do marketing and you do branding and i do research but then the question is what kind like what kind of branding do you really do and who do you do for and how are you different and what makes you unique?
So the hybridity is articulating in a clear way that isn’t confusing this is it. This is why we stand out and you can point to it now i still think the notion of hybridity is that it defies language like that is literally one of the things i found in the research when you’re in the intersection of multiple things so my primary identities are being an artist, researcher designer, and educator that i put into a venn diagram and then i go okay who am i at the middle of that venn diagram there is no one right or wrong way to name that it’s up to me but once i do i sort of give myself a new label and then the way that i help people understand sir about the Creative Disruptor because that’s my hybrid title is i say i work at the intersection of being an artist researcher designer and educator which then enables me to radically create innovation strategies and systems for organization and people. and that like three part
That’s my intro essentially is a give a hybrid title which is my unique label i break it down into the parts because that’s what’s familiar people know what those parts are but then i describe the relationship of how those parts fit together which is the meaning like why i do it how i’m being an artist educator designer what’s the point of that in the world so by giving an explanation of that degree it really actually changes the way people see me they’re like they hear my name they see my parts and then they see this is her definition of herself and that’s different than all the other artists and educators and researchers we’ve ever met it’s a unique combination i think businesses need that too right like what are the parts and services of what they do and why do they do those things together what what is the relationship between the things and then you start to find those hybrid spaces
Marc Gutman 29:23
absolutely and i love that explanation that definition thanks for clarifying that because that to me that makes a lot more sense that you know a bit of the process is to to do the internal workings for you you know it’s not necessarily external at first and then it’s about it’s about helping create that definition and that translation for the external world of like hey this is what my title means and so yeah that makes total sense i love it and and i think that’s great and so as you’re going through all this research and you were like aha like all right there’s this intersectionality like we don’t define language like, that’s all cool. But like, are you then like, like, what do you do with it? You’re like, Okay, I’ve got this thing. Like, like, now what?
Sarabeth Berk 30:10
It’s like you’re reading my mind.
Marc Gutman 30:11
Yeah, this great discovery like you’ve discovered something amazing! Now what?
Sarabeth Berk 30:17
I mean, at the time, I didn’t really know if I had discovered anything amazing to me. I thought it was like the best thing I’d ever found. But I didn’t know if anybody else cared, right? It’s sort of when you invent something, and then you’re like, but now what? So essentially, that became my dissertation. So it became this huge document that, you know, maybe 100 people on the world have read. And then it went dormant. Because what was happening was, I was getting more comfortable with being a hybrid, like, I had to own it, and walk into it and live it right? you, you can talk about it, but then it’s another thing to be it. And I didn’t have the confidence yet.
I was like, people are gonna think I’m crazy. If I say I’m Sarabeth, I’m a hybrid. And they’d be like, What are you talking about? So it took me a few years, and I needed that time to socialize and do more observation with more people. Like, I started just networking for my own work, because I was doing innovation strategy with K 12 schools at the time, I’d have coffee meeting, and I was meeting people in the community. And I’d learned about them, and what do they do? And slowly but surely, again, and again, I was noticing people are more than their job titles, they have all these different parts. And they’re not good at identifying which parts are the most important to them, nor are they good at explaining how those parts fit together.
So I kept seeing the same issues and other people I met. And I would throw it out there and say, you know, have you ever thought you might be a hybrid? And people would be like, what, like, What are you talking about? And then I’ll explain a little, and then go, Wow, that’s that is me. That’s, that makes a lot of sense. So I was validating, it’s like any entrepreneur, when you have a new product, like do people want this, does it mean anything to them. And so after a couple of years of that I knew in my heart, I wanted to write a book someday about this. And then getting these stories and more, you know, understanding of how this looked in the world, it helps me find my voice. And it helped me start to see the shape of how do I need to explain this to the mainstream public because I wasn’t in the university land anymore. And so that’s what I did, I decided to write a book. And honestly, I didn’t have a vision.
After that, I was like, I’ll write the book, and then see what happens. And literally, I published the book came out April 2020. The title of the book is More Than My Title, the power of hybrid professionals, and a workforce of experts in generalists. And the fact that I’d use the term hybrid professional. At the same year, the world was going through a pandemic, and everything was becoming hybridize, work and learning and the events and like all sectors, it was really a moment of just serendipity that I was already thinking about this, and the world started talking about it. So that it’s led to a number of interesting conversations. Because Another thing I want to bring up, I didn’t know that you can tell me how much you know about it is category creation. Category creation, from what I’ve learned is when you invent a whole new type of product that the market didn’t know they need it. So they’re not searching for it yet, like athleisure. That’s my favorite example. like nobody knew they needed athletic apparel that could be worn outside and exercised in but now it’s everywhere.
Yeah. And so hybrid professionals, and hybrid professional identity is a new category of workers, and a new way of thinking about the workforce. And so people aren’t searching for this. So the adjacent ways people are still talking about it, is personal branding, and career development. And then the academics that identity research piece. So I’m living in a zone of joining conversations in those other circles, showing them and getting them to think about, don’t you mean, hybridity? Aren’t we talking about identity here? Like? How does that factor into your career development and the way you brand yourself like that, to me is now how I’m bringing this idea into the world. Yeah, and I think that like, even this idea of personal branding, I mean, for me, like it was kind of an icky word couple years ago, it’s like who? personal branding.
But it’s almost like now to be a modern professional, you have to brand yourself personally, whether you’re an entrepreneur, whether you’re an executive, I mean, you have this identity, to your point, outside of your title. And people are looking to that to be like, well, what else are you talking about? What else are you thinking about? How are you putting your own interesting perspective on the world? And so that that’s also just this other kind of thing that’s intersecting with this, this time that you’re in right now and why hybridity is so
Marc Gutman 35:00
So relevant and so cool. And so you wrote a book, like, what was that? Like? I mean, did you it’s not an easy process. And you’re in, you know, you’ve just written a huge dissertation, not just but you’ve written a huge dissertation. So you’ve already spent some time in the sort of the ooey, gooey middle of this topic. And then you decide to write a book. I mean, did you have doubts as you’re writing that book that anyone was even going to be interested or care about this topic?
Sarabeth Berk 35:29
Oh, my gosh, the journey to the book was really interesting. Because I, if you hadn’t noticed, I’m the high achiever overachiever. Like I set a goal for myself, and I go for it. And I literally just accomplish it. I don’t just talk about things I do. Um, and so I gave myself a year after finishing grad school, to take a break. And then I was like, I’m gonna start writing the book. And I didn’t know what I was doing. And every Sunday I was forcing myself to sit down and log hours. And it was painful.
Because what I didn’t see at the time, I just, I didn’t know it yet. Like, I didn’t know what I was trying to write and say, Yeah, I hadn’t found it. So after a few months of just putting myself through the ropes, I stopped and laid it down. I think I also got distracted by work projects. And my other goal at that point was, I need a book agent, right? Like, I need a literary agent to be a serious author. I’m not going to self publish. So I took a little bit of time trying to send proposals and get an agent and I got some bites. But I learned quickly, it’s about the size of your audience. They’re like, how many followers do you have? How big is your email list, your Instagram, all of that. And I didn’t have a presence yet. And they said, come back to us when you have x 1000. It was like 10 or 20,000, it was pretty high.
So I was feeling defeated. And I kept talking to more authors. How did you do it? What did you do, and it’s just a really crazy journey. It’s one of the most opaque industries on how you publish books. And everyone’s story was different. Essentially, you either self publish, or you get a giant house like Penguin Random House. And somewhere in the middle is independent publishing, which is actually called hybrid publishing. So long story short, I found a woman who is in the independent publishing world, she became a book coach for me.
By the time I found her, I had validated and had a lot more confidence, I’d done a TEDx. I gotten asked to do some big speaking. In those speaking engagements, I was talking about this idea to audiences that I had no touch points with right there were cold. So I was starting from scratch with them. And by the end, they were just blown away, like the comment I get the most is, my mind is blown right now. And to me, that meant Wow, this was a really impactful idea that I’m sharing, then. So the questions they started asking me things like, Well, how do you figure this out? How do I do this myself? What are the Venn diagrams? How do I look at the intersections that started giving me the fuel of these are the questions I need to write about in the book, this is what people want to know. And this is how they want to know it, I just need to find the best way to share it.
So suddenly, I had a lot more inspiration, I knew my audience, I had this book coach, the writing the book, honestly, Marc, I did it in four to five months, like I started around Thanksgiving of 2019. I have the manuscript, final draft by like February, because I was aiming to polish by April. So it was like, that’s what happened.
Marc Gutman 38:26
That’s a good experience and once you’re aligned, that it all happened. And so when you think about this topic, and you think about people who are struggling with this idea, are intrigued by this idea, or their minds are just they’re listening to this for the first time, and their minds are blown, as you say, what, like, what’s the first step they can take? Like? What’s the like? What’s something someone can do to start to explore this further?
Sarabeth Berk 38:51
Yeah, no, great question. Because I do have a whole process, right? Um, the first thing is really to start with where you are right now, current state, what do you call yourself? What do other people call you? What are your kids call you, your friends, like notice all these different ways you’re being labeled, and the names you’re using? Then you start to brainstorm a list of all those different identities. And it’s really important to know that identities and actions are different. So when you ask someone, what do you do, they start telling you actions like I do some marketing and branding, I help people I mentor, a coach on the side. Those are all actions.
So convert that back to an identity. Who are you when you do that thing? Just because people are doing marketing or helping with branding? Do they call themselves a marketer? Are they a brander? And sometimes it’s one to one they’re like, yes, of course, when I do marketing, I am a marketer. And other times are like, actually, when I’m doing this branding thing, I’m I’m more of an i via navigator, or I’m a wayfinder or I’m I’m crystallizing, I’m a catalyst.
So you realize there’s other identities you are that you’re not showing or talking about if that makes sense so it’s really the first step is taking an inventory and doing a really big brainstorm on all the identities you’re showing up with and that you’re using and then the next big step is to narrow down you go through and you see which identities i call them are your primary and which are your non primary or like really like your secondary tertiary and the biggest difference between primary and non primary is your primary ones are the ones you use most frequently like every day because they bring you joy you feel alive they’re the expertise you want to be known for.
For me it’s the artist researcher educator designer like that is my core foundation of course i’m still doing like graphic design and event planning and these other things but i don’t use those every day and that’s not my best identity so you look at your brainstorm list and then narrow it to your primary ones and you have to have at least two to be a hybrid right like two identities combined will make one intersection three identities is sort of the sweet spot i think three is what most people are usually in for is the upper limit if you have more than four primary identities you’ve got to keep narrowing because there’s just too many intersections so that is the beginning of this work the second part i call investigating the intersections that is where things get really hard like time and again that’s where people struggle because it is literally a space if that’s unconscious and you’ve never thought of who am i in my intersections like that’s a whole different conversation we need to have.
Marc Gutman 41:41
love it thank you i feel like that’s that’s so actionable and you know you talk about struggle i mean like what’s hard about it you know like what were what is hard for everyone to wrap their minds around like what don’t we know about this this whole hybridity thing?
Sarabeth Berk 41:59
Yeah well let me play with that with you for a second if i walked up to you and said hey Marc, tell me how you’re unique how are you unique in your work ready go like what would you say?
Marc Gutman 42:09
Well i would say there’s a whole list of things so i think that’d be my first challenge you know there’d be like it but then there’s also this thing i don’t like talking about myself you know and i don’t like in that way you know and saying these are the things and i don’t know if you encountered that a lot but like these are the things i’m good at like it’s it’s truly hard for me to to say that and i encounter a lot of people that also struggle with it but that’s me personally. i don’t know if that holds up in your experience as well.
Sarabeth Berk 42:38
i would just say like rule of thumb the majority of people if they were confronted and asked in this moment to explain how they’re unique and different in whatever they do they would either a kind of like draw a blank like be caught off guard i don’t know i need a moment b they would be unsure they’d be like i it’s hard to describe or like i know i am unique but like how do i put it into words or the the other one is just your uniqueness is it’s just it’s like the wrong way to approach this because like you need tools to see yourself and to be able to read oh i know what i was gonna say the third one is they get to general they’ll say something like i’m really good at problem solving like my superpower is asking really great questions and it’s like what does that even mean right?
Like these are really broad things like everyone says they’re good at problem solving i’ll be honest i hear that a lot so the trick that i use and this is another strategy i have it’s called your first best or only. and so instead of approaching it with where are you unique which is ultimately what we’re trying to suss out in finding your intersections and your hybridity.
If you look at yourself and go okay where have i been the first on something like the first project i did the first client i landed the first it started a new process it could be on a team or in a company or the best like you were the top in your group the top in a region and the only you were one of a kind no one else has even done this thing yet right pull out those stories try and get like one per category and that will start to reveal this is you in a moment of uniqueness so i was like the first to launch and lead this innovation ecosystem around early childhood wow okay so let me break that down what was i doing who was i in that moment to do that thing what identities were showing up when i was in that first moment if you so going into my research hat for a moment there’s a notion of triangulation what triangulation means is when you’re collecting data if you only have one data point you don’t know what that means, if it’s good or bad and if you have two data points then one might be good one might be bad so you don’t know which it is but if you have a third it’s the tiebreaker right it’s like okay two of them are good or two are bad so you know you’re leaning more this direction.
that’s how it goes, I think in learning about your hybridity. So if you can think of three stories that represent your first best or only, then you can start to say which identity showed up in story number one, which identities are number two, which are number three, and you start to look for identities that are consistent across these moments to figure out, Oh, those are the identities that are really true to me, like these are the ones I’m using the most. And they’re important.
And that is just one way to start to find your uniqueness. There’s a lot of tools and tricks I use in this work, because this is a very deeply reflective process. I did a crash course this weekend with individuals and one of the participants that if the best he said, Sarabeth, this work, is like feeling muscles you didn’t know you had after a really hard workout. Like I start asking people questions they have literally never been asked before. And that’s why their minds are blown. They’re like, Oh, my head hurts. And I have to give them a break. Like we can’t do the whole thing in a day or in an hour. It’s kind of broken into segments.
And this is why, I’m literally making you step out of yourself. Like it’s metacognition like watching what you’re doing, and who you are, when you’re doing it, to start to see patterns and start to truly notice what specifically you’re doing that other people don’t do, which then creates that recipe back to the ingredients of who you are in your hybridity.
Marc Gutman 46:28
I don’t think I’m supposed to ask you this. Because probably like, children, you’re not supposed to say your favorite hybrid titles. But could you share a couple of your favorites that you’ve either helped to bring out of people or they just have have come your way? Like, what are some of your favorite titles that we can leave the audience with?
Sarabeth Berk 46:51
Yeah, no, totally. It’s a great, great, great question. And I think examples are really important. So I’m so glad you asked. So yeah, it’s not a bad question. One gentleman I got to work with. He was describing himself as a project manager, essentially. And he was unhappy with with his work and just felt like not all the parts of him were being used. So we went through this journey and unpacked and by the end of it, he realized he was really the tension methodologist.
He was balancing energy and projects or resources, and he was managing tension, but he had a methodology to it. And he’s like, That is me the tension methodologist. Someone else I worked with, she is the methodical Weaver of wonder. She’s really good at pulling visions out and weaving them together. And she again, has a really special way she does it. this other guy, he’s the human hitmaker, someone else call themselves a serial adju agitator. He was merging two words education and agitator together. And another one is the spiritual sparkplug. Those are a few off the top my head.
Marc Gutman 47:57
I love it. I love it. Well, where can our listeners learn more about you and dive deeper on this topic? We’ll make sure to link to everything in the show notes. But why don’t you go ahead and let people know where they can learn more about how to how to like, kind of dive deeper on this topic.
Sarabeth Berk 48:12
Yeah, I would love that. So I’m on clubhouse a lot. So I hope to see you in rooms there if you are. But MoreThanMyTitle.com is my website, all kinds of goodies and freebies, a lot of tools, like the word list is up there and Venn diagrams. And then I’m on Instagram at @MoreThanMyTitle as well. And I just started doing some LinkedIn live so people can see me, I’m really talking to people about their stories of being hybrid. So I’m a little bit of everywhere, like you.
Marc Gutman 48:39
Awesome. And as we come to a close here, Sarabeth, I want you to think back to that, as you described it the the wallflower version of you in high school. And you know that that version of you that was told that you weren’t good enough to get into that art program. And, you know, if she were able to see you today, what do you think she’d say?
Sarabeth Berk 48:59
I mean, my first reaction is all like just really a lot of surprise and shock. Because this, this is something I would have never ever ever envisioned on myself. There’s no way. I don’t know where it came from still like, I think I’ve surprised myself a lot. Yeah, great question.
Marc Gutman 49:23
And that is Dr. Sarabeth Berk, Creative Disruptor at More Than My Title. I’ve often struggled with fitting in and how to describe myself. That, in Sarabeth’s words, there was no language for the intersections of my identities. Hearing Sarabeth’s insights and methodologies has allowed me to see myself in a different light, and I hope it’s helped you as well. I also loved your actionable teaching, especially the first best only exercise. I’ll be working on that one this weekend over a journal and some coffee. A big thank you to Dr. Sarabeth Berk and the More Than My Title team.
We will link to all things Sarabeth and More Than My Title in the show notes. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line at podcast at wildstory.com. Our best guests like Sarabeth come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode a lot big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can’t deny
Transcribed by https://otter.ai