How many times have you been asked the question “so what do you do?” I always wonder if people even know what they mean when they ask that. My responses to this question are mostly comical for my benefit. Sometimes I revert into my complete sarcastic self and respond with “Well, I’m a confused thirty something with no clue what’s next, worries about the future and now I’m trying to find my best self….what about you?” but that would be harsh.
I could even go with “I work in so and so as my corporate gig, but I’m also building my writing career on the side, developing my skills as an amateur filmmaker, meditating the shit out of life to bring peace and harmony to those around me plus I’m training to be Batman, you know the usual” but this mostly results in a blank stare and some off the cuff remark about being a millennial, so my generic line is “I work in learning and development for a global retailer, what about you?” – doesn’t sound as sexy right.
Other thoughts that come to my mind when I’m asked this question range from – are they asking me what I do as me? Like who am I or do they just want to know about the job that pays me and my standing in society? Come to think of it, why the hell is the first thing we ask people who we’ve just met, around what our professional occupation is? Who even made this the norm? – so many questions.
Why can’t I just be Ross, the guy who loves Kale smoothies, working out and pondering random and irrational questions, instead of the generic “I’m a digital learning manager” – who made these rules dammit.
I find your job title is the metric that’s used to determine what you do in life, how you should be valued and what you’re good at, but is that right? I tend to disagree. What if you’re Jack the accountant, but also Jack the awesome amateur photographer/Java engineer/ dog grooming expert – why can’t you have multiple streams that keep you engaged and paid. If you think about it, the job title you’re given at work means nothing anyway, it’s just something they use to label you and never really reflective of all the skills you possess and what you’re actually capable of achieving. We seem to love putting things in boxes and to tick those boxes off so we feel secure in the framework of “life” and our job title is part of this.
Do you want the red pill or the blue pill?
But what if I told you, that your job title is just a bunch of words with no meaning, words that can never convey who you are and what you actually do. A lot of people connect their identity with their job title and not the actual work they do, the things they do that bring impact and change to others lives. I mean, just look at Linkedin where people love using words like ‘senior, lead, head of, expert’ in their job title, it’s a pure status thing like “I’m Jack and I’m a senior sales architect at blah blah inc” now that might be the title they put down on a piece of paper you signed when you joined a company, but that’s not you, it’s not who you are.
A job title will never tell you who a person is, like who they really are and the hidden skills or talents they may have.
The world is changing and a number of jobs today won’t exist in the next 10 years. As technology continues to advance at a lightning pace, job titles will mean nothing in this new world, it will be about your skills, how varied they are and your ability to adapt, to learn new things. No longer will being competent in one field of knowledge be enough, we’ll need to be skilled in many areas, to be agile and adapt to the constant needs of the world, finding what skills you can develop and where they will be best placed to use.
Just because you’re doing one role today doesn’t mean you can’t flip the script and jump across to a different industry or role to develop a new set of skills, I know this to be true as I’ve done it myself.
Don’t feel restricted, keep learning, always adapt
The key to being future fit is to embrace change, adapt and evolve. The role you perform today will most likely not be the one you’re in 10 years from now, it may not even exist.
Don’t let the title of your job define you, it’s not who you are or always what you do. You might be a software engineer right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your writing and communication skills through a personal blog or become a marketing whizz by trying your hand at social media campaigns.
We should never place limits on ourselves, I’m a firm believer in, if you have the will, you’ll develop the skills. Through technology, we have been enabled to develop several sets of skills at any given time and we see this growing each year through the creation of what I like to call non-jobs or simply defined as those who don’t follow a traditional career and work across several disciplines.
Our careers and what we work on are a major part of our lives, they allows us to demonstrate passion, creativity amongst many attributes. To be held hostage by your job title and to define yourself by only this and feel like you cannot be/do more than just this, would be a shame.
What’s your point?
I have a number actually:
- Don’t let a job title define who you are or what you do.
- Always be curious and never shy away from learning and developing new skills because it’s not part of your ‘job’
- You can be a jack of many trades and master of all, multi-skilled is a valued commodity now and in the future.
- Be future fit, develop a mindset and skill set that will support you in the changing years to come.
- Be like water, embrace change, adapt and evolve.
- Your identity is not rooted within your job title.
Ultimately, you will decide what you take away from this.
My message is to not let yourself be defined by any one element. You can do whatever the hell you want, whether that’s amassing several skill sets or focusing on one thing, just don’t feel like the label you are given is what defines you or your future capabilities.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
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