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HOW TO LIVE BEYOND YOUR JOB TITLE: Break the Shackles Of Excessive Role Identification

Identifying yourself as your job title serves only to limit your thinking, expectations and how others see you. The question is, what can you do to see yourself otherwise?

Wednesday 29 April 2015

OK so I made up the term “Role Identification” and maybe it exists or maybe it is called something else, but it is a common condition many people experience.  Let me explain.

No doubt you will have found yourself to a party or some social setting where you meet new people.  One of the first things people often say in such a situation is “So, what do you do?” and the typical response is, for example “Oh I’m an Accounts Officer for an insurance company (insert your job / company here)”.

So now you have been labelled and assumptions have been made based on the other person’s experience and knowledge of that job title as well as their personal biases and stereotypes.

When you do this in a work setting you are putting yourself into a box which will draw assumptions about your skills, responsibilities and authority.


Living In Your Job Box

Sometimes we use these job boxes to our advantage, such as avoiding responsibilities or exerting power / authority over others.

More often though this labelling or excessive role identification will work against us and contribute to disempowering beliefs and thoughts: 

Self-worth and perceived status – if your job sits a few layers down in the organisation structure, you may be inclined to see yourself as “just” a Customer Service Officer or “just” a Plant Operator.  With this thinking you have limited your authority and subconsciously told yourself you’re not important or you don’t matter much. 

Coping with change – when we see ourselves as a job title we also limit our ability to cope with change.  If our job is made redundant we often see no future for us in the current organisation. Then when we search for another job we will often look for the same job title and become despondent when few similar roles are available. 

Adding value to the organisation – when you see yourself as a job title that also implies a skill set and a position within the value chain or box in the organisation chart.  Some people may choose to work within the boundaries of their role and be reluctant to contribute or express opinions about other aspects of their team or organisation. 

How the organisation sees you – despite having skills gained elsewhere, there are many people in roles who are frustrated because they don’t get the opportunity to utilise these skills.  The organisation has pigeon-holed them and that’s where they stay.

How you experience life – with such limiting thoughts, the person who overly identifies with their job title will have limited exposure to new opportunities and growth (both professional and personal).  This in turn reinforces their belief that they are “just” a this or that and ultimately leads to job dissatisfaction and resentment.  Trapped by their own disempowering beliefs.


10 Keys To Living Beyond Your Job Title

If you have read this far then I imagine you have experienced excessive role identification or know someone who does. Awareness is important but action is critical.

Breaking out of this job box requires a mind shift and change in focus from short-term to long-term.  Here are my keys for living to your potential and breaking out of your job title box. 

Please, however keep in mind the context here is living beyond your “job role” and is not meant to be a life plan as such, though it must be undertaken as part of the bigger life picture.

  1. Have a vision and / or purpose for yourself – This doesn’t have to be some grandiose 20 year vision or your ultimate purpose in life (though it could be if that is clear) but it must be a purpose or vision beyond your current role and may involve aspects of your personal and professional life.  For example, To be a well respected leader and mentor in the “X” industry and an advocate for consumer rights.  Note that I am not suggesting people aspire to be the CEO.  The example I just provided makes no mention of a position or job and anyone can be a leader, mentor and advocate.
  2. Set goals in all aspects of your life – success at work is important but it must not be the only thing you have in your life.  Develop goals for family, finance, health, personal growth, spiritual, lifestyle and pleasure aspects of your life.  Be sure to include legacy goals.  These are the things you want to be remembered for and the type of person you want to be.
  3. Have a plan – When you know your purpose and goals you can develop a career and life plan with sub-goals and milestones to track your progress.  Review this regularly and make whatever changes are needed to keep you on track.
  4. Conduct a skills audit – some goals and plans will be beyond your current skills and capabilities.  What skills do you have, what skills do you need to achieve your goals and what is the gap?
  5. Consciously develop skills – You know your skills gap from the previous step and now need to develop the required skills and knowledge.  Attend courses, get coaching, observe others, read books, search the internet and do whatever it takes to learn what is needed.
  6. Promote your skills, abilities, interests and goals – whilst many of us don’t like to boast about ourselves, unless we are open about what we can do we may only ever be seen as fitting into the limiting job title box.  Share your goals with others, the development you are undertaking or the additional experience you have.
  7. Take opportunities to work on projects – when opportunities to work outside your role arise, put your hand up.  It may be daunting to try something new but it will stretch your mind and develop new skills.  It also provides an opportunity for you to show others what you can do.
  8. Build relationships and a strong network – well connected people get things done and have opportunities come more easily.  This is not about forming cliques or playing politics but more about widening your circle of influence and access to information.  Be sure to give back to your network and not just be a taker.
  9. Identify role models – one of the fastest ways to learn is to have a role model.  Identify those who have achieved what you want to achieve.  How did they do it?  What strategies did they use? 
  10. Find a mentor – lastly find someone who can mentor you through your career (you may have more than one mentor).  Mentors will support your efforts and guide you through challenges you face.  If they are internal to your organisation they can also speak up for you and “push your barrow”.

Taking this longer term focus will start you on a journey.  It is this journey which is ultimately more beneficial than achieving the goal because it is what you become along the way which will change your life.

Thinking outside your job box will improved your self-confidence and self-worth.  You will have more fun, greater resilience and a heightened sense of achievement and happiness.

If you or someone you know might benefit from coaching on this topic or if you’re wanting some advice on development opportunities, please contact Mark y emailing mark@intelligentperformance.com.au or visiting our Contact Us link.



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