What your job title really means (and how to put the spark back into it)
The first time I met Martina, I knew we were going to be friends. We were in a group of mature PhD students (mature in the sense that most of us had jobs before starting a PhD – doctors, lawyers, researchers, etc). We were doing an introductions round with the “what do you do?” question. But Martina suddenly interjected: “Why do we have to start with such boring questions?!”
While I was taken aback for a moment, I knew she had a valid point and loved her honesty.
Because, I believe that we are more than our job titles (or areas of expertise) and the status or salary they bring.
“What do you do?” is one of the most common and also most dreaded questions. It’s a ranking and sorting question rather than a way of truly connecting with people. It never leaves us feeling very satisfied. At worst, it creates distance or envy. At best it huddles people into professional clans.
I’m passionate about people creating their own jobs, career paths and titles if they so wish. While I didn’t know that would become my actual mission one day, deep inside I’ve always admired the values that go with it – freedom, adventure, courage, creativity, possibility.
Now I can say that my job is helping people discover who they really are and create their own path. And it feels more real than saying I’m a doctor/senior lecturer/coach/director, etc. which happen to be the official titles.
When I coach clients, it’s understanding their limiting habits – ways of thinking and acting that trap them in jobs and situations that aren’t right for them – and freeing themselves of them that’s most helpful. What title would you give that?
Of course, you may still have to fill in boxes on forms asking you your “job title”. Society has prescribed roles for us and we have to play along sometimes. But never believe they’re real or that a tick box defines you.
According to Tony Robbins (building on Maslow’s peak performance psychology as well as ancient wisdom and spiritual traditions) our most fulfilling work involves two things: learning/growth and contribution.
That’s what brings that spark of aliveness and joy to your work and combats the dullness of routine and self-limiting negativity.
So here’s my alternative definition for your job title (based on my own!):
T: Teach what you know –
Help people benefit from your life by passing on your best knowledge and experience.
And do it generously. You can never run out of wisdom and creative ideas! You don’t have to give everything away, but I’ve found that the more I give, the more ideas come.
It’s a conceptual exercise with a positive purpose or can involve skills training. Either way it’s usually best done through active engagement and a sprinkle of humour.
I: Inspire those around you –
So many people struggle with the drudgery of everyday life and feel stuck by constraints that may be outside their control.
If you can show someone what else might be possible by being an example, do it.
Remember you can help people just by being true to yourself and walking your path with integrity. It will create wonder, beauty and connection.
You don’t have to “do” much here. As Gandhi said: My life is my message.
T: Transform what you can –
Be a catalyst, a facilitator, a mediator, a change agent, a translational voice, a silo-breaker…
The world is the most interconnected and complex it’s ever been to us, leaving people and organisations feeling uncertain and at the receiving end of impending disruption.
If you can help them calmly navigate what can feel like rough seas, not only will you rise above the fray and experience more calm yourself but you’ll also feel more fulfilled.
This is an active ingredient. It’s how you influence a process. We each have our special ingredient to be owned and added to the mix.
L: Liberate human potential –
This is deep work that releases the human potential trapped in toxic work cultures and limiting thought patterns.
It’s an embodied practice and it’s positively contagious: as you liberate yourself from your own self-imposed limitations, you can help others do the same because you become better at spotting and discerning false limitations from real ones. You’re more present and wiser.
Here you must go deep. As you commit to uncovering and dissolving the conditioning that shackles you, you’ll learn how to do it for others – possibly the greatest gift of all.
E: Empower those who need it –
There’s no doubt that the distribution of material and political power is less than ideal. And whether you realise it or not, you have certain advantages that others don’t.
We can help others in material ways as well as to connect with the gold within – their own inner-resources and courage to reach out to others for help.
Encourage others to trust themselves and their intuition: to speak their truth where they can and honour it silently if they must until the right action can be taken.
This is about context which can’t be ignored because it creates meaning. If you’re going to tell a story make it an empowering one and do what you can to change the structures.
If you truly live into this job T.I.T.L.E, the quiet, continuous joy that comes from living a meaningful and authentic life is yours for the taking.
If you still feel there’s something missing at work, then it may well be that the environment you’re in is not supportive and it’s time to think about moving on.
As I said to one of my bosses a few years ago before taking a leap out of the system: It’s my job to look after my inner-spark. My inner-spark is my true career capital.
What do you need to do today to look after yours? And how can you help someone else do the same?
Amina Create your own path.