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Who Are You?

May 6, 2020

I was having lunch at a downtown Salt Lake City restaurant. The man sitting across from me was a recent aquaintance I’d met at a “networking lunch.” He was a senior vice president in a local bank. He was on his lunch break. I was on a semi-permenant lunch break. I’d been out of work for several months.

What is it you want to do? What kind of a job are you looking for?

I work with computers and I most enjoy working on interesting problems or designs.

Maybe you should market yourself as a “I’m your computer guy that gets stuff done” expert?

Neither my friend nor I knew what to call my role. And not surprisingly, because I couldn’t describe it, I wasn’t very successful at finding a job to match my skills.

My problem was, when it came to my job, I didn’t know who I was. I knew what I did. But, I didn’t have a name for it.

A friend on facebook recently posted the question, “How do you describe yourself to others?” It got me thinking about how we describe ourselves. Are we what we do? Are we defined by our roles?

I worked for Microsoft for nearly a decade back in the late 1990s. My life was largely defined by my job. I had a single email address. I was [email protected].

It was very hard to leave Microsoft. And when I left I found I was empty. I didn’t really know who I was. I certainly wasn’t [email protected] anymore.

I described the experience as “marrying my company.” It’s a bad idea. I don’t recommend it for anyone.

Years later, I was working for a large non profit in Utah. I loved the job. I spent nearly five years there. One day they announced layoffs. My job along with most of my department were suddenly out of a job.

And yet, I didn’t struggle with my identify. I didn’t have that empty feeling. Of course, I was disappointed. But, I hadn’t let myself become overwhelmed by my job.

I didn’t respond to my friend on facebook. I didn’t make an attempt to explain how I describe myself to others. In my view it’s a complicated question. And since I’m not anyone else except me, I’m maybe not the best to describe myself to others.

What I do know is who I am. Just as I may lack the words to describe a smell or a sound or a memory, I’m not sure I want to make the attempt to describe what makes me me.

However, in business, it’s important to be able to describe the role you want. And what you can do.

Technical Program Manager

That was the title I was floundering for when I had lunch in Salt Lake City all those years ago.

I may be a Technical Program Manager, but it’s not what I am.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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