Your Title Should Not Define You

Guest blog written by: Steve Graham

Job titles serve a purpose. Titles identify roles and responsibilities within an organization.  They should not define who you are. Many of my coaching clients have enjoyed successful careers, but they desire to make a change.  Too often, my clients are defined by their title and this makes it harder for them to make the desired change.   For example, a top performing sales professional may identify as, “only a sales person”, without understanding who they truly are.  What makes them a top sales performer is more about who they are than a title.

What defines you has been part of your story since birth.  These include your values, experiences, beliefs, motivators, and other influences.  When we allow our titles to define who we are it limits our potential.  It creates barriers that do not allow for us to see the “who” we are.  What defines you is bigger than any title.  Titles come and go. What defines you is constant.

According to Gallup research, 55 percent of people in the United States define themselves by their job.  This data is not new and it has been consistent throughout multiple Gallup polls since 1989.  This Gallup study also found that people who love what they do are less concerned about their titles.  Your personal brand has nothing to do with your title.  When I work with clients on personal branding, we start with finding out what defines them.  Your career journey should be guided by what interests you and what you are naturally good at doing.

In the exploration phase of defining “who” you are, various self-reflection activities and assessments can be used as resources.  I recommend using more than one resource to help in this process.  Two favorite assessments for helping clients define their brand are Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0  and The VIA Survey of Character Strengths.   In my experience, no one assessment can provide all the information you need to define the “who” you are, and that is foundational to developing your personal brand. Consider these steps to help you:

  • Listen to what others say about you. What consistent feedback do you hear?
  • Take some assessments that measure personality and behavioral traits. Look for patterns or consistency in the data.
  • Self-reflection. What do you think about most? What inspires and motivates you?
  • What do you do best? Think about this deeply, what comes naturally to you?

Another exercise is asking clients to introduce themselves by their name only.  Do not automatically give your title or where you work.  Many people are used to including their title and where they work in social settings.  Break the habit of connecting what you do with who you are.  Of course, in some situations, it is required that you mention your title and where you work during introductions.  If your self-worth is fueled by your title, you will not be well prepared for life issues—like job loss or demotion.  As a kid I enjoyed reading Curious George.  He was always exploring and getting into trouble, but I liked how he was courageous and most of all curious.  You are never too old to explore new things. Take time to explore the “who” you are.

For decades career coaches have talked about transferrable skills.  These skills are more about what defines you.  A good sales person shares attributes with those who work in fields like fund-raising (development) and recruiting.  The titles are different but what drives the top performers in those fields is what defines them.  It sounds simple, however, some people have a hard time defining the “who they are” apart from their title.  There is more to you than a title.  Remember that titles identify and the “who” defines.

 

About the Author: 

Steve Graham serves as vice president for marketing, HR business partner and college instructor. He holds graduate degrees in management and higher education. As a life-long learner, he has additional graduate and professional education in executive and professional coaching, health care administration and strategic human resource management. Steve is also the Founder and President of Valiant Coaching & Talent Development, LLC.

He is a certified HR professional with The Society for Human Resource Management, certified coach with the International Coach Federation and a Global Career Development Facilitator. His professional memberships include: The Society for Human Resource Management, the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration, Association for Talent Development and International Coach Federation.

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