I realize this is a professional platform. Most people I “connect” with on LinkedIn connect with me because of a professional relationship, a career interest or a shared industry connection. That being said, I’ve become acutely aware recently of how career-obsessed we are as a culture. Not just career-obsessed but addicted to neatly filing people into categories based on what their business card reads. Think about it, when attending a networking event (or oftentimes a purely social event), what is the first thing you ask after learning someone’s name – So, what do you do?
Several events in my life in the last three years have led to my hypersensitivity to our preoccupation with people’s occupations: starting my own business, becoming a mom and transitioning from a full-time work schedule to a part-time schedule. Honestly, having a kid for me was a giant wakeup call that my identity is not tied to my pay check. I’ve realized that raising a tiny human, whom other humans will want to share the world with, is a far greater calling in my life than anything I could put on a business card. And don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job. I also have Significance® in my Top 5 talent themes, which results in me seeking and pursuing mission-driven, meaningful work (paid or not), with that purpose being more meaningful that anyone one-line descriptor. All that being said, I still want to yell, “keep a little person alive” when people ask me – So, what do you do?
When I stepped into entrepreneurship three years ago, I had the opportunity to “make” my own title. It was my company, I could call myself whatever I wanted to, right? I struggled with this, because I didn’t really see why it mattered much at all. And, three years later, I still struggle to sum up the question – So, what do you do? I’m a leadership coach. I’m a leadership development professional. I’m a trainer. I’m a facilitator. I’m also a writer and a speaker and a content analyst. And those are just the things that are directly related to what I get paid for. What do I do? I do yoga. I cook. I read voraciously. I research health more than I should. I sing. I teach Sunday school. I serve on Boards. I dream about getting a PhD. I make lists and check things off of them. I take naps. I am a world traveler, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a mother.
I’m not the only woman thinking about this. Author/speaker/researcher Brené Brown addresses this exact topic in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. She references Marci Alboher, a fellow author, who wrote One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success. In her book, Alboher shares hundreds of interviews with people living “slash careers” and argues that these combo-titles results in a more fulfilling expression of one’s passions, talents and interests than a single descriptor. Like Brené and Marci, I refuse to be defined by a single line on a business card. I am not my title. I refuse to continue to shudder when asked – So, what do you do. Instead, I will borrow Brown’s response and smile and say – How much time do you have?