Creator. Searcher. Star. Friend. Director. Which one are you?
As anyone who has worked in an office can tell you, we tend to fall into certain “personas” at work based on our skill set, job description, and personality. It might be comfortable to have a workplace niche, but staying stuck in your comfort zone can inhibit your professional growth—and even negatively impact your wallet. Research published in Psychological Science shows that aligning certain personality traits with the job you want could mean additional earning power.
To put it another way, when it comes to workplace success, personality matters. It’s not enough to cultivate new traits, however—you need to be bold about showing them, too. Keep reading for four ways to do exactly that.
1. Know Your Type
In order to understand—and change—your workplace persona, you must first become aware of what it is. Pretend you’re an anthropologist studying yourself. Think about how you typically behave at work, then take a look at these common workplace personas, which have been defined by motivational expert James Sale. You’ll likely identify with more than one, but which do you fit best?
- The CREATOR is driven by creativity and innovation.
- Strength: Finding solutions to problems
- Struggle: Easily bored by routine
- The SEARCHER is motivated by a desire to make a difference.
- Strength: Driving progress forward and helping others
- Struggle: Reflexively saying “yes” to every request
- The STAR strives to be recognized for their career success.
- Strength: Meeting deadlines and delivering high-quality work
- Struggle: Perfectionist tendencies
- The FRIEND enjoys networking and connecting with others.
- Strength: Building strong relationships
- Struggle: Balancing work and play
- The DIRECTOR thrives in leadership positions.
- Strength: Managing projects and people
- Struggle: Delegating tasks
2. Watch and Learn
Once you know your niche, you can begin to step out of your comfort zone—but it’s crucial to “make a change strategically and based on data, not a knee-jerk reaction,” says Kathy Robinson, founder of career coaching service TurningPoint. The best way to do that? Observe others in your office.
“Do your bosses seem to listen more closely to others who behave differently?” asks Robinson. “Are you watching people get promoted and noticing all of those people fit a certain kind of ‘persona’ mold?” Once you know the answer to these questions, the next step is to “find ways to see and be seen with the group of people who best represent how you want to be perceived,” she explains.
3. Have a Game Plan
Football players don’t blindly take the field; if they did, they’d get run over. The same is true for you—if you try to reinvent yourself overnight, you’re almost guaranteed to feel overwhelmed. Instead, start with a single step outside of your comfort zone. Here is an example for each persona:
- If you’re a CREATOR and find yourself stuck in a rut, switch up your lunch break. Try dining al fresco, eating with a group of coworkers you don’t normally socialize with, or grabbing a bite at a restaurant you’ve never been to before.
- If you’re a SEARCHER and have trouble turning down requests, replace an instant yes with, “Let me take some time to think about that,” or “I’ll get back to you” to clearly exert your boundaries.
- If you’re a STAR and want to seem like a team player, ask yourself how you can strategically support someone whose opinion is important to you.
- If you’re a FRIEND, ask the people you chat with what they need help doing. When they answer, think of a resource—a website, a business, a book, or a particular person who might be able to help—and make that connection.
- If you’re a DIRECTOR, take a few minutes to look at your calendar or think through the obligations cluttering your brain at the start of each week. Then, ask yourself the following questions:
- What can I delegate and hand off to someone else?
- What doesn’t have to be done this week?
- What must I do? What are the priorities?
4. Cultivate Curiosity
Challenge yourself to learn something new, whether it’s self-taught or sponsored by your company. “If it’s appropriate, ask your manager to sponsor you for leadership training,” says Robinson. You can also speak with people from other teams about what they do to increase your understanding or make a list of specific ways to develop in your current role, even if it’s just for you.
The bottom line: Your potential should shape your persona, not the other way around. When you open yourself up to new experiences, people, and your own ambition, you can harness your power to manifest success—and the more open you are, the more meaningful that success will be.
Kara Baskin is a Boston-based journalist and wellbeing expert. For over 15 years, she has been helping consumers live healthier, more fulfilling lives, writing for outlets such as The Boston Globe, Time, and Women’s Health. Kara has also collaborated on several books on women’s health and resilience. Find her on Twitter @kcbaskin