I have been on a journey to define my professional brand; to find my identity outside of the institution at which I work or the position I hold. I found that my work and my job had become too much a part of my identity and I needed to acknowledge what I brought to the table separate from that.
Then I got a new job and as I shared my news I was triggered by the normal questions I was being asked “So, What is the job? What is the role? or What will you be doing?”. I did not want to be defined by what others thought of the functional area. I did not want to be tucked away neatly in the box of this is what to expect; this is the limit of what can be accomplished there. Though I know it is human nature to be curious and to question until you find something recognizable that you can associate with yet I was frustrated that my fellow student affairs professionals who know that our work is bigger than the position/title would put me in that place.
I know that my student affairs peers know that no matter what position I will be doing the same work as them; impacting the lives of students, helping students develop into leaders, and serving students to the best of my ability. Yet that was not what was being communicated by the questions. Perhaps a more inclusive question would be “what department will you be working in?” as that recognizes that each department has a different lens and approach yet the position is owned by who is in it not the other way around. I know, it’s semantics yet I also know that language is important as it carries with it the underlying messages that fuels our self-talk and unspoken expectations or limitations.
This position trigger was like a wound. Once it is hurt it scabs over then of course as you go about your day the wound is like a target gets bumped and re-injured repeatedly so it takes longer to heal.
I am and will always be a student affairs practitioner and leadership educator no matter the institution, division, department, or position. It’s not the title that defines me or the work I do.