How I found my calling

30 Dec

I know many people search for their dream job - and not just when they are out of school. I regularly hear from others about how they are still thinking about what they'd like to do - even when they are in their 40s or 50s! For me, it was a bit of the opposite. I had a clear picture of what I wanted to do early on. Below is my story of how I found my calling.

I thought I invented my field. I was a freshman at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, taking an Introductory Psychology course. In the class, we learned about the concept of self-efficacy, which is the belief in your ability to succeed in a particular situation. The interesting thing about self-efficacy is that it has a positive relationship with actual performance. So if you really believe you can achieve something, you are more likely to be successful. While the class was discussing free throws, I envisioned myself as a famous (and wealthy) motivational speaker. I would travel the world going to automobile manufacturing plants, and other companies, to tell managers and leaders that if they can convince their employees they can do more, be faster, have fewer errors, etc., then they will have more positive outcomes, saving money for the company in the long run. I was ready to be famous. 

I approached my professor during office hours later that week to share my idea. His response? "Oh, you want to be an I/O psychologist. You should talk to Dr. Stone." 

It turns out, there was already an entire field dedicated to the study of psychology at work, called Industrial-Organizational psychology, and Dr. Stone was our I/O psychologist at the University. 

To be honest, I was kind of disgruntled that my idea to make me rich and famous was already taken. However, I did decide then and there, as a freshman, that I wanted to become an I/O psychologist. 

I went on to get a Ph.D. from Penn State, and have been working in the field ever since. While I still think it would have been neat to have invented the field, I can say with confidence that I'm in my dream job, because I actually thought I invented it for a while.

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