02 Jan Your Professional Title: Do They Really Get It?
So, I’m on the phone with my mom and yet again she says, “I still have no idea what you do for a living.” It’s been a recurring question for seven years…
Typically, I’d spend several minutes explaining the role of a facilitator. You know, “process focused” – not so much the “expert’ – all about the “journey”. But the dead silence on the other end of the phone is always a tell-tale sign. She doesn’t get it.
But recently, without thinking too long or too hard, I quickly replied in an exasperated tone. “You know…just think of me as a helper. I help people – that’s it.” I added, “I help people come together to have important conversations. They might be learning about something or they might be learning how to do something, they might be planning something or solving a problem together. They might even be giving me input around an issue that they think is really important.”
I nailed it, I thought. Until she quipped, “Well that’s all fine, but what are these people doing sitting around talking? Shouldn’t they be doing their work?” That made me smile!
My key reflection from this conversation is around how we label ourselves at work (or how others label us) and how these titles can help and/or hinder others’ understanding of what we do? I’m not really big on titles. I’ve learned that it’s the description of a role that gives clarity. But we’re surrounded by labels and titles every day!
How do you define your “professional self”? Do you defer to one or more titles? Maybe you have a distinct job title or function – like a social worker, carpenter or lawyer? Or maybe, like me, your work is such that one title doesn’t always fit OR it doesn’t always resonate with people?
Yes, I’m a facilitator. I generally defer to that title. But depending on the day, I can also be a trainer, a speaker, a coach, etc. What I DO know is that no matter why or how I show up in a space, I’m there to help. Not unlike a social worker, carpenter or lawyer, I guess. They are also in the business of helping. And maybe you are too?
So what makes me and my chosen profession so special? THAT’S where my mom’s been SO helpful. Through her repetitive questioning I’ve pin-pointed the essence of who I am and what I do for people. That thing that sets me apart – from other helpers!
Today if you ask me what I do, I would simply say, “I help to create space for conversations that count.” What would YOU say?
About the Author:
Gerard Murphy owns Barefoot Facilitation Inc. – a consulting company based in Nova Scotia, Canada. Follow Gerard on Twitter @trybarefoot.