“And, what do you do?”
I’m always expecting it but never sure exactly when it’s coming. There were times when I couldn’t wait for someone to ask me because I had the perfect elevator speech all ready for them – carefully crafted with just enough information so they would ask for more.
The first time I realized that “what I do” or “what I don’t do anymore” is so very important is when I left my position in corporate America. When I was there, what I did explained it all with just my title. Doors opened because of what I did and where I did it. The right people were interested and often impressed by what I did. It wasn’t a hard sell.
When I left a senior management position at corporate headquarters to do what? – I had no idea, but something totally different – what I “do” suddenly changed. I had relocated to Baltimore, gotten married and needed a break from the schedule and life I had been living. That life and “what I did” had sucked me dry and I knew I had to “do” something else. Here I was in a new city with no friends or associates.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that “what I don’t do anymore” can get in the way of creating new relationships or business associates. Often when I told people I was taking a break to figure it all out, I could sense something – to them, I wasn’t an important person anymore. I had no title, no corner office and no big expense account. And, at that time, I know I wasn’t confident in who I was without those things either. I wasn’t okay with just being me.
What I have come to realize twenty years later is that our culture has really driven home four things for so many of us:
- we are what we do
- production equals self-worth
- the more you work, the more important you are so it’s important to let everyone know how busy you are – exhaustion becomes a status symbol
- the pressure to perform, and to out-do is ongoing
So, as I head into this transition of leaving where I’ve been for nineteen years, saying “so long” to so many incredible friends and business associates and leaving the “me” I created during this stay, I am, once again, going to be confronted with…. “What do you do?”
Ahhhh… but now, I am so ok with my answer. Maybe the age makes a difference but I am quite comfortable in telling people that I’m figuring it out and that my priority is to take the best of what I know, the best of what I love doing, the best of new things that may come along that I wasn’t even expecting, and the best of having fun and living life… and DO IT.
What about you? Where are you with all of this and where do you want to be? And, of course, I’d love any tidbits of wisdom you have to share.