Jussi Ahola

Curious humanist

When did job descriptions become self-descriptions?

I attended a conference on technology and media last week. At a conference like that I’m always struck by what some speakers and attendees put after their name and that small comma: Mr. Whoever, Very Important Specialist, Some Company; Ms. Thatgirl, Head of Super Vital Operations, Another Company; Mr. Knowitall, COOFMOE, Even Bigger Company.

Really? Is that how you define yourself? Your job description equals your self-description?

When meeting new people, we often tend to ask, What do you do for a living? before knowing much else about that person. In fact you can just say, So, what do you do? and it implies the same thing. I just typed what do you do into Google to see what it suggests:

My hunches were right. (OK, I didn't see the steam trading card thingy coming.)

Of course, the space after your name and that comma doesn’t accommodate for a whole lot of characters, but I think we could do better than just list our job titles and the companies that license us to use those titles. We’ve developed a culture of defining ourselves in terms of where we get the money to buy food and shelter for ourselves and our families. It’s not about who you are as a person; it’s about what it says in your job contract. We have fallen the victim of linkedinization. Yes, I just decided that it's a word. Job descriptions as self-descriptions.

I’m not that interested in your job title. I don’t know what COOFMOE stands for, nor do I much care to know. I don’t take an interest in how high up you are in the totem pole.

But I do care who you really are.

How do you spend the 24 hours that you have each day? What are you passionate about? What was the last book you read or the film you watched? What have you created lately at work or in a personal project? Did you connect, create, explore? Did you show empathy? What are your biggest dreams and hopes? What are you scared shitless of?

Tell me.