In The Geography of Bliss, author Eric Weiner notes that every culture has a getting to know you type question. In the U.S. it is inevitably, “What do you do?” The answer is generally a job title. It provides an easy benchmark for a person’s social status, income, and coolness factor. Think doctor, lawyer, or writer on a hit comedy show.
In the entrepreneurial world there’s a thing called an elevator pitch. It’s where you tell a new acquaintance about what you do by describing who it is you serve, what they’re struggling with, and how you help them. Things along the lines of ‘I help people get well’, ‘I help people get what they want’, or ‘I help people laugh’.
How are you thinking about your career? In terms of title or in terms of impact?
In Pam Slim’s blog post, “Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work”, she argues that framing your career in terms of your body of work is a liberating perspective. This is because even if you are working as a candy striper today in the hopes of one day becoming a doctor, you can still build your body of work with your actions and attitude toward the patients that you come in contact with. Or if you lose your job as a comedy writer you can still make someone laugh on the subway.
Your body of work goes beyond any one particular job that you hold. It is the sum of all the things that you do in and out of your professional life.
If you look at your past experiences and those you are hoping to have in the future what is your body of work? What will you have left behind in the world after titles become irrelevant?
This is a concept that I first thought about from Pam Slim’s blog post.