ask the expert | who do you think YOU are?

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today we have a post from our business support expert: sam leader from flying solo. if you have never visited her site, you must go have a look. heaps of useful information for anyone with start-up questions and a fantastic forum!

A recent experience made me appreciate how important our job titles are to the outside world. This makes me cranky as.

I was filling out a residency reference for a friend recently. His feedback? “Looks great. Only under ‘occupation’ please instead of ‘Editor’ can you say ‘Director’?’

Of course I made the change. I understood his rationale – it doesn’t matter that I see myself more as an editor than a business owner, because clearly the latter has more gravitas.

Until this happened I hadn’t realised how much I hate job titles. They are limiting and easily misconstrued. They are at best a necessary evil. It’s why I dread the ‘what do you do?’ question, which I normally fumble my way through while my conversation partner longs for a refill.

Even though I have published about a dozen articles on elevator pitches, when it comes to giving one, can I manage? Can I bunnies. You know what they say about plumbers and their leaky taps. 

For your amusement, here are some of the answers I spew forth:

“I’m the editor of Flying Solo, an online community that supports micro businesses.”

This is technically correct, although far from clear. What’s an online community and why does it need an editor?

“I’m a business owner”

Ambiguous. Authoritative. Kind of like this one.

“I run my own business.”

Similarly ambiguous but not as authoritative.

“I work from home.”

Has a whiff of the telegraph pole ad.  

“I work from home part time, and have two young children.”

This whiffs of telegraph poles and bodily extractions! And even to my ears, saying ‘part time’ has connotations of a lack of dedication, which I know is patently untrue. Nonetheless, the sense remains for me.

This last descriptor is the most accurate, but one I tend not to use. Why? My observation is that although this is by far the most challenging and rewarding role for me, every non work at home parent I say this to seems to think it’s not at all challenging or rewarding. You can just see it in their expression. Sad but true.

In the absence of feeling comfortable answering the perennial question I am the master of swiftly turning into a prime interrogator, starting my barrage of questions with, you guessed it, “What do you do?”

How do you introduce yourself? What impression do you think it gives others? Do you go for the job title you know will impress over a personally preferred label?

Meantime if there are any pop psychologists reading this who want to analyse my confusion over my identity, not to mention my appalling sense of professional inadequacy, I’m all ears.

Top up, anyone?

Sam Leader is the Editor of Flying Solo, Australia's micro business community, and one of its three directors. Over the last five years she has overseen the publication of over 1,300 articles from over 100 contributors. She is also the co-author, with Robert Gerrish and Peter Crocker, of the business bestseller Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business. Sam's responsible "...for all the book's good bits."   Like most solo business owners, Sam wears a number of other hats. As Social Media Manager, she oversees Flying Solo's presence on Facebook and Twitter (LinkedIn's coming soon) and she is also Mistress of Mojo, ensuring motivation stays high for everyone involved in Flying Solo.

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