What are we without a job title?

who cares? I never read your business card

I just left my job as a category manager at a consumers online review company in Europe. Few months before I finally left this post, I had been searching a new job around Copenhagen – online and offline (through networks and newspaper). In addition to financial security reason (mortgage, living cost, and a requirement to survive as an immigrant in Denmark), self-confidence wise, I could not imagine quitting a job without another new job being ready. I was simply too nervous not knowing what I would do or would be, without a new job. And I hate the idea of claiming my unemployment insurance.

This post was originally meant to share about my new job. But then something strucked me and deviated me to write something else.

Feeling nervous not knowing what one would do or would be, without a new job. There must many people who have experienced the same feeling as I did when they were about to resign from their old job or when they were in-between jobs. What are we without a job title?

Think about it. In Asian culture, and I guess in many other cultures too, people often quickly measure (or judge) your success shortly after you answered their question: “So, what are you doing currently?”. In Indonesia, the question becomes very intensely direct such as “Where do you work now?” or “What is your job?”. These people, particularly Indonesians, shoot you with these questions, probably only for an empty opening chit-chat, without realizing that they actually have helped developing a stereotype that “people = job title”.

Sure, one can formulate anything to answer the above questions. Although, at the end, people typically expect the answer in the same format: a job title + a company name. Then, the conversation may likely continue beyond this point, such as job tasks or roles (or throwing back the same question “So, what is your job now?” *duh).

Even many LinkedIn users put their job titles under their names on their profile pages.

However, is it really true that “we = job title”?

If it is, then it must be so painful for many unemployed youth in southern Europe who are struggling looking for the job in the middle of a suck economy. Imagine. Their friends and family expect them to nail a job after they, for sometimes, have been carrying a piece of master degree diploma (which must look pretty useless after hundreds of declined applications).

Many career-driven people, who have devoted most of their hours for and at work, often can’t stand the stage of in-between jobs for more than a month, because they just can’t help the idea of losing the purpose of their life, which often extends to job title. (Remember Miranda, on Sex and The City movie 2, who confessed to Charlotte at the hotel bar in Abu Dhabi, that she really missed her job as a lawyer despite only leaving it for short weeks?).

And on my side, this whole society misconception is also irritating. Yes, as an immigrant in Denmark, I need to have a job title so that I can show and proof to the society that I am doing “something” productive –> social expectation. And, to relieve my mom on the phone, every time she asked “So, what is your job now? what is your title?” –> family expectation.

The thing is, even if I had the title as a CEO at one giant company, this title still does not and cannot define the entire of myself.

Job title may help indicate someone’s typical day-to-day activities, a schedule, or skills, though the last point can be misleading (someone with a sales job title, does not necessarily have a selling skill), but job title is not a 100% representative of ourselves. It tells nothing about our attitude, personality, actual skills and experience (proven track record does tell the last two criteria – not a job title).

So, what are we then without a job title? Well, people in general still need a job (it can be anything) to make a living and to live a life. But even if they lost their job title or even lost a job, they are still them. An Obama is still Obama whom his wife has known long before he became a president of the United States. And I am still me: a driven young woman who loves online world, spicy food, and travelling, and of whom my husband explains as a person who is over thinking.
Have a good Saturday! (and try to elaborate something beyond job title under your name on your LinkedIn page; it can be a short words of your strong skill).

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