Profession vs. Purpose?

Profession vs. Purpose?

Anyone who has ever been subjected to the rigors of a job interview has most likely been posed with the following stammer-inducing question; can you tell me a little about yourself? Many people might reply with a Ralph Kramden-like “homina-homina-homina” uttering which is often followed by a description of what they do for a living.

In my case, my reply was once something to the effect; I’m a sales manager with XYZ Pharmaceuticals and I’ve been with the company for twenty years. Although that answer accurately described what I did in order to take home a paycheck, it didn’t really tell the interviewer all that much about me. Since I was making a decent salary at the time, which was probably more than what the job warranted, I was happy because my pay adequately covered my expenses such as an over-priced house in the “burbs” as well as my exorbitant annual property tax bill. I was content.

Then one day my boss summoned me to her office, along with many others, and subsequently told us that our services were no longer required. I could either accept a rather modest early-retirement package or not, but regardless, don’t bother showing up to work on Monday. I can still recall the emotionless look on my boss’s face as she delivered the news of my ouster to me. Her normally ashen skin tone was covered by what I think was some very inexpensive orange tanning cream as she handed me an empty FedEx box. She instructed me to take home the box and bundle up the files from my home office and ship them back ASAP. I took the box home, stuffed it with the files and promptly deposited in the trash can behind my house. I later came to regret the decision of throwing the files in the garbage, as I should have been a better citizen and recycled them to be later used as cheap toilet paper or birdcage-lining newspaper.

So, at that point, when posed with the ‘tell me about yourself’ question, I had nothing to offer. That’s not a good place to be. My purpose back then, which in essence was my job title, was gone. It was time for a look in the mirror and head back to the drawing board. I eventually came to realize that a job title should not define me. The job title should not be an indicator of my success or impact. What was really important was to identify a niche, exploit it and THEN define a purpose!

I’ve since moved on to other, more independent ventures. I will gladly tell people what I do for a living, although now it takes more than a quick sentence. Between facilitating communications training, serving as a business consultant to various organizations and producing a comedy-based variety show (that’s the really fun one!), I just can’t seem to capsulize that into a one-liner. Now my response to the ‘tell me about yourself’ zinger is this; I consider myself to be approachable and fair-minded. My purpose is to be a disruptor in a positive and meaningful way through numerous business ventures. That, at the very least, gets the conversation going…and makes me feel better about myself.

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