Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hiding Behind Job Titles

I received the latest issue of NUSS Annual Report. They sent it all the way to Vancouver. Glad for that. As I was flipping through the pages, I paused to look at a photo on the networking pages. In that photo, there were 3 gentlemen, looking intently into the namecards that they have received from each other. I remember the kind of typical behaviour in the business world:

"Hi, I am Bob."
"Hi, I am Paul."
Bob: Paul, What do you do?
Paul: I am a Managing Director of ABC Multinational corporation.
Bob: I am the General Manager of XYZ Bank.
Paul: So what do you do at the bank?
Bob: I manage staff, ..........

Why am I uncomfortable about it? It is not because of their job. It is not because of their status. It is also not because of the desire to want to network with different people. It is basically the concern that people's identity are so intertwined into their careers that the moment their job is gone, so does the identity. It is a very common practice for people to be sharing more about their work, what they do, rather than who they are. I guess, hiding behind job titles, job descriptions is far easier than about sharing about ourselves. John Powell's observation in his book: "Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?" exposed the human tendency to want to feel good, to want to look good, and the need to be likeable. Powell's book listed the reason why people hide themselves behind the titles and the work they do.

"I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it's all that I have."

That book was written in 1969. It is still very true today. Networking gatherings are increasingly not for me, especially when they resemble masquerade parties.


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