Monday, October 5, 2009

What's In a Title

Let's say you're meeting someone for the first time. Everyone's trying to get to know one another and someone asks you, "what do you do?" How do you respond? Do you act like a soldier and give your rank and file in your company, something like, "I'm the Executive Vice President of Finance?"

I notice people associate themselves more with their titles at work than anything else. This is something I've struggled with over the past six months as I've begun defining who I really am. Am I just a name and a title, like in a boxing prize fight?

Or am I something more?

I'd like to think we are. In fact, we're not in a race or a boxing match. What we stand for is something beyond what we do for a living. Right?

May be we're all the roles we play and names we take.

That doesn't really answer the question though. After all, I can change the focus and say that my life's not about work, but about my family. I like being a husband, a son, a brother and a friend. OK, but aren't all of these titles too?

When you tear it down, aren't we all just people making, nourishing, or breaking relationships? What we strive to answer in that simple question of "what do you do," is what relationship we have with the various people in our lives. Somehow, each of us gives more importance to one role than the other, but all of them can still be defined by the relationships we have.

I know that each time, in a casual or formal setting, I pay a little more attention to my audience and what message I want to convey. What relationships are important to me now and what gap do I fill in those relationships?

That's how I'd deal with it, but what do you think? Is this question moot? How do you answer the question of "what do you do?"