Where Have You Been?

You’ve probably been asked more than once, “what do you do?”

I want to ask you that, too. But I’m looking for a different kind of answer than most. I really want to know, “What else do you do?”

Let me give you a challenge. Let’s say you’re a real estate agent. I want you to describe your professional skill set, but make absolutely zero mention of being a real estate agent.

Take away the “primary” thing you do. Describe everything else. Fill a resume, but you can’t say the main thing. It’s challenging! But there’s a ton of value in it. People tend to box themselves in – they label themselves as a particular thing, and then they commit to that label, hard.

You’re so much more than that one thing. You have a dozen different skills nested under that first broad skill set. Here’s a healthy exercise: Write down every skill set you have that you learned in your “primary” vocation, without writing down the actual vocation or anything that would give it away. If you’re a doctor, you could write “interviewing people who want my help but might have reason to lie to me; finding the correct solution to complex problems that have dozens of potential solutions; working under deadlines of extreme importance,” and so on. Once you have that list, take a look at it and consider: How many other professions would find those skills useful?

Then take a look at your journey. How did you get where you are? What else did you do along the way? Where have you been? For each of those, add to that list of skills and competencies. By the time you’re done, you’ll have a very long list of things you’re good at, and no particular job they have to be tied to.

Now understand how free you are. You aren’t locked into that one label.

Imagine your neighbor is a professional rock climber. She’s one of the best in the world; she can scale nearly any cliff like a mountain goat with minimal effort. Then one day her kite gets stuck in a tree and she calls the fire department to get it out. When you ask her why she doesn’t just climb up there and get it herself, she hangs her head sadly and says “I’d love to, but I’ve never climbed a tree before. I’m a professional rock climber.”

Absurd, right? Sure, they’re not exactly the same, but there must be a huge transference of the skills there, right? Of course!

It may not seem like it, but it’s almost as absurd when a graphic designer says “I could never be an architect.” Stop defining yourself so narrowly. Don’t file yourself under a specific label. You have skills, and it’s worth taking the time to really evaluate what they are.

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