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  • Writer's pictureDeseré Cross Ward, M.Ed.

More than a job title: How to redefine yourself in the workplace 💁🏽‍♀️

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

I recently started rewatching Lovecraft Country, an HBO horror drama series, and one of my favorite episodes is titled “I Am.” It’s a powerful episode that highlights Hippolyta’s self-discovery journey. As I rewatched this chapter in the series, it resonated with me in a new way, especially after my recent journey of self-discovery.


Beyond C'Est from Lovecraft Country
Beyond C'Est from Lovecraft Country's I AM episode

In 2021, as I emerged with a newly minted master’s degree and the courage to quit my job, I ridded myself of the social media title that had defined me for the past seven years of my career. So often we allow our job titles to define who we are, but without one, I found myself having to rewrite my bio and redefine who I was professionally. So how does one break free of their job title (without quitting their job) and redefine themselves in the workplace? Glad you asked, and if you didn’t, I hope you keep reading anyway 😉.


1. Have a hobby

Oftentimes, when we meet new people, they ask “so what do you do?” as if our job title will give them a good sense of who we are; however people are so much more than what they do from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. CTA: The next time someone asks what you do, resist the urge to define yourself based on your job title. Instead, share with them your hobby.


2. Name your passion

Instead of trying to get to know someone by asking them what they do, ask them what they are passionate about. This will tell you way more about a person than simply knowing what they “do” at their job. Knowing someone’s passion tells you what keeps that person wanting to live each day, and that my friend, is way more important than any job you will ever have.


3. Know your skillset

Many of us do something very specific on the job, and we can easily find ourselves placed in a box labeled with our job title. I vividly remember the feeling of panic closing in on me as I sat in my graduate advisor’s office, concerned that I’d been placed in a professional box labeled “social media.” Although that’s what I did 9-5, my communication skills were more expansive than that. And now, with my master of education degree, I wasn’t sure how to remove that label. What helped me break out of that box was redefining myself as a communications strategist with many tools in my toolbox -- social media was just one of them, and now I was adding a new degree. CTA: Rip your job title label off your box, take inventory of your skillset, and redefine yourself in a way that encompasses all the skills you have in your toolbox.


4. Have an imagination

Deseré Cross Ward in front of the Texas State Capitol during Black Lives Matter march
Me at the 2020 Black Lives Matter march in Austin, Texas

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Are you the person who you envisioned as a child? Why or why not? I ask these questions because part of having imagination is being honest with yourself regarding what it is you want. Many of us have allowed ourselves or the world to shrink our imaginations, especially when it comes to our professional identities. I can’t tell you how many jobs I didn’t apply to because I did not have the imagination to envision myself in the role.


Professionally, I used to label myself as a social media expert but I am so much more. I AM a communications strategist, Black storyteller and community builder ✊🏽. CTA: Don’t allow your setbacks or society to shrink your ambition. Challenge yourself to expand your imagination beyond your current job title and boldly proclaim who you are and who you want to be.


5. Establish a brand separate from your organization

When I first started working at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, I drank their burnt orange Kool-aid from a fire hose. I created a professional Twitter account branded with everything UT, but soon found myself getting lost in the sauce of UT’s brand. I was such a dynamic individual, but my followers wouldn’t know that based on my account. All they saw was a UT employee. Thank God I had a partner that noticed how my own identity was being swallowed up by UT’s brand, and I’m grateful that he had the foresight to pull me out of UT’s powerful trance. I share my story because it is a common one in the workplace. Oftentimes we allow our job titles to define us, to the point that we no longer have an identity outside of the workplace. That’s why it is so important to create an identity that encompasses our whole selves.


 

I recently had a client who realized after 25 years of working at UT, her work and achievements weren’t contributed to her, but to the university. She came to TwoWards Solutions, wanting to reclaim her identity as a professional, and create a personal brand separate from her workplace. If you’ve noticed you have fallen into a similar identity trap, come holla at me. TwoWards Solutions specializes in helping professionals build a personal brand beyond their job title 😉.


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