You Are So Much More Than a Job Title

SmartBrief for Entrepreneurs highlighted a story in this morning’s Brief from Inc. entitled What Am I, If Not My Business. The article was speaking about those entrepreneurs who had built an empire and were now selling their companies.

However, it seems to me that if you lost, or were to lose, your CFO title, you might also experience some of these same reactions …

–Yet he’s unable to shake the feeling that he has lost something important and doesn’t know how to get it back.

— He lost his sense of purpose.

— … it is probably inevitable that you are going to have trouble determining exactly where your business ends and you begin.

— … it can be profoundly disorienting when suddenly you aren’t so important anymore.

There were others, but I think you get my point. What we do is so closely aligned with who we are that our identities are intertwined … to the point that when we lose our title, we lose something of our self. Your business card, resume, and Linked In profile now, suddenly, proclaim “unemployed” rather than “Chief Financial Officer.” It’s a tremendous blow to both ego and confidence. That hit can come through loud and clear in your conversations as anger, defensiveness, or even self-righteousness … even if you don’t hear it. It can also speak volumes in your body language, even if you don’t recognize it.

Whether you are employed or unemployed, take a step away from your job title and figure out who you are as a person. What is your gifting? Where is your passion? What do you enjoy doing so much that it never feels like work? And finally, who needs those things? That, not your job title, is who you are!

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7 thoughts on “You Are So Much More Than a Job Title”

  1. So very true, Cindy. What’s also interesting in all of this is professionals who have been unemployed for longer periods of time have come to appreciate and embrace their value, title aside, as you’ve suggested above. It’s the newly displaced who struggle more. So you have this group of individuals who lost their jobs a while ago and grew to realize they were more than their title. They accept what they end up doing next as a career doesn’t have to define them. Now companies are the ones a bit shell shocked. They don’t know how to take the individual who values himself beyond his job. I often hear employers say, “job seekers need to be more flexible in order to get a job these days.” Ha! I’ve found many of the longer term unemployed have become more flexible than companies can relate to. In the years everyone was working themselves to the bone we lost perspective. We forgot about our need to have a human experience, not just a working experience. Well, now we’re remembering and it’s going to be difficult to convince people it’s worth returning to that level of burn & churn. Especially with fewer financial incentives to do so.

    • Lisa,

      I think that you brought in a good point that the long-term unemployed are utilizing this time well to reexamine whom they are at the core of their personalities and to develop these unique skills/traits/interests. Perhaps you could develop even more your line of thought on how employers can’t handle this change in the development of the non-work centered individual.

      Personally, I think that the issue of people feeling worthless and unsure of their identity outside of their job is due to an over-emphasis in American culture on perceived social status & materialism. If people understood that their “self” is a combination of their personality, values, beliefs, contributions to society they would realize that it isn’t “how they perform” that defines a person. Rather how a person interact with other people & the example they set with their behavior day in and day out that matters.

    • It’s interesting, Lisa, that you notice the reverse of what I see. It “seems” to me that the newly-unemployed are still riding the high horse of being a great CFO who anyone would be blessed to have, while the longer-term unemployed … those who are weary and have had their egos crushed … are the ones who struggle with “who they really are.”

  2. Cindy,

    A person’s job title does not and should not be their identifier. We are all so much more that our current job.

    That being said, a “Real CFO” is still a CFO, whether they are currently employed or not. On LinkedIn or on a new personal business card, putting your title as “CFO for Hire” makes a clear statement.

    Being in between employment is a fact that we all have to deal with from time to time. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Being proud of who you are, being confident in your abilities, as well as being active and selling yourself will make the difference.

    Samuel Dergel
    Senior Partner & Practice Leader, CFO Search
    Twitter: @cfo2grow and @cfo2dergel

    • Always appreciate your insight, Samuel. Thanks!

      I would argue though that “CFO for Hire” on a business card or as the headline on a Linked In profile puts the emphasis on the fact that you’re unemployed rather than on branded value.


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