Who Gets the Recognition?

In Invisibles, David Zweig talks about brilliant professionals whose work goes unrecognized (“invisibles”); usually someone up the chain gets the glamour. Some examples in the book include (in parentheses who gets the credit): a structural engineer (an architect), perfumist (a celebrity whose name is on the bottle), a sound engineer (a rock band), and a cinematographer – (a director). There are of course many other examples. Zweig’s first trait of an Invisible is an ambivalence towards recognition.

Revolving Door: Who gets the recognition?
Revolving Door: Who gets the recognition?

He goes into painstaking detail to explain precisely what these invisibles do. Why does he take so much effort doing this? So you appreciate the complexity of a task that might otherwise seem mundane or facile, perhaps not deserving of your recognition. Tuning a concert piano, translating from one language to another, and creating a perfume (examples in the book) require meticulousness – a second trait of an invisible according to Zweig.

Invisibles are expected to not make mistakes. An architect has faith that his structural engineer designs a building that will not fall down; a rock band performing to thousands of fans has faith that his studio engineer properly tuned and configured the instruments. Zweig’s third trait of an invisible is the savoring of responsibility.

I think David Zweig challenges the need for self-promotion and recognition in what he calls the “era of micro celebrity” – something driven by social media. The absence of recognition has nothing to do with compensation as all of the invisibles make enough money, but rather other extrinsic motivators: respect from an audience, verbal acknowledgement or praise, higher status, and awards. From within, these professionals are intrinsically motivated to work towards perfection. Is all the extra fluff necessary?

I spout off that almost all professionals should do some form of personal branding. For the invisibles, personal branding would be helpful in landing their gig; but after that, an online presence and self-promotion seems unnecessary. Invisibles are journeymen who have found lifelong careers where they leverage their core competencies. None of them seem destined for a major career change.

Most professionals face career changes, however. Personal branding is an effective way to go through a career transition. It helps you focus on a vision and clarifies what needs to be done to move forward.

Moreover, for many professions, our ruggedly individualistic society forces us to be assertive. We are in a non-stop series of competitions – for clients, partners, jobs, and/or an audience. To differentiate, I suggest developing a personal brand. How else do you gain influence over a target audience?

David Zweig. Invisibles. Penguin Group (New York, 2014).

Original Image © Depositphoto/ ABCDK #5819414

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