Why Your Title Should Not Define You

By Steve Graham on May 31, 2018

Job titles serve a purpose. Titles identify roles and responsibilities within an organization.

But they should not define who you are.

What defines you?

As founder and president of Valiant Coaching & Talent Development, LLC, I have seen employees buy into this. Many of my coaching clients have enjoyed successful careers, but they desire to make a change. Too often, my clients feel that they are defined by their title. This understanding makes it harder for them to make the desired change they want to instill in their life.

For example, a top performing sales professional may identify themselves as "only a salesperson." They neglect to embrace who they truly are, that they are more than their title. What makes them a top sales performer is more about who they are than a title they are given.

What defines you has been part of your story since birth. You're defined by things like your values, experiences, beliefs, motivators and other influences. But 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 "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.

How to Move Past the Job Title

Adult female professional typing notes on a laptop computer at a table

Your personal brand, the core of who you are, 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 of my 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.
  • Practice self-reflection. What do you think about most? What inspires and motivates you? Knowing answers to these questions can help you discover a career path that inspires you.
  • Know your skills. What do you do the best? Think about this deeply, what comes naturally to you? While we can always grow in our skills, be aware of those things that come naturally and what you have a talent for.

Another exercise is asking clients to introduce themselves by their name only. Don't automatically give your title or where you work. Many people are used to including their title and where we 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.

Where is your self-worth?

Adult male holding a cell phone and adult female at a laptop computer while sitting at an outdoor table with coffee drinks

If your self-worth is fueled by your title, it makes a job loss or demotion much more traumatic and difficult. Expanding your self-worth and identity beyond just your job title provides a broader perspective of life.

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 "who" you are.

For decades, career coaches have talked about transferable skills. These skills are more about what defines you. A good salesperson shares attributes with those who work in fields like fundraising, development and recruiting. The titles are different but what drives the top performers in those fields is what defines them.

There is more to you than a title. Titles identify. The "who" defines.

Enhance Your Skills

Wonder how you can grow in your transferable skills? Check out our degree programs that can provide you the skills and experience to thrive both in work and in your everyday life.

REQUEST INFORMATION

Category: Vocation