Tuesday, November 26, 2013

“So, What Do You Do?”

By Danny Syto, Cohort 8

I was very fortunate to have worked for a boss who allowed me to create my own job title just as long as it does not have the word “Chief” in it. So I claimed the title “Emperor of Project Management.”  It was amusing at that time and sure to get a chuckle when I was asked “What do you do?” whether it is in the office or in networking events.

However, things changed when I was laid off.  First of all, I do not like the phrase “laid off”.  It has such a negative connotation. I wish there was another word for it.  The corporate world use the polite term “Reduction in Force” but then people changed it into a verb by saying “I was RIFed”.  I would rather use the term “Job Seeker.” 

Things changed when I became a Job Seeker.  Inevitably, during one of the functions I was attending with my kids and other parents, I was asked the question “So, what do you do?”  I felt like I had a big neon sign on my back that said “laid off” and I could not tell them that I was still the “Emperor.”  The best I could do is mumble the words “I’m in transition” while looking down at the floor. 

I felt like I was subhuman because I know what’s behind that seemingly innocuous first question we often ask of strangers.  It meant “How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? How do I compare to you? Are you worth my time?”

A couple of times I tried to dodge the question by saying “I’m a Dad of three boys and we like to go fishing and hang out together.”  I still get in a tight spot when they follow up with a more direct “Where exactly do you work?”  Whenever I encounter these questions I often end up writing an entire page in my journal with reflections of why I felt like dirt.  I remember gathering my kids to tell them that if anyone asks what I do, tell them I’m retired.  “I used to be a Rocket Scientist, but I’m now retired, get it?” “Dad, I didn’t know you were a Rocket Scientist, can we still buy that video game?”   Later on, I found that this could backfire and hinder my chances of getting employed.

Since joining the LA Fellows I learned that I can control how to respond to these situations. There are times when strangers just want to strike up a conversation or engage in small talk.  I see the possibility of networking. These days, I respond according to the situation.  I really enjoy volunteering for my nonprofit and there was a time when I confidently said “I’m a Grant Writer” looking at them straight in the eye.  It even surprised some people who were close to me knowing that I’m not employed, - or am I?  In that particular situation, I found out that the other person was also a job seeker.

The best response however, is just telling them that I’m a Project Management Professional looking for better opportunities.  It’s a fact, these days people who are employed will need to continually look for better opportunities.  It’s also a matter of which small voice in my head I choose listen to: Am I a victim of the situation? Am I the captain of my ship?

Next time someone asks you the question, “What do you do?” Tell them what you are passionate about.

I’m passionate about sharing what I know.  As an LA Fellow, I continue to learn and challenge myself. Most of all, I am an active job seeker, that’s what I do. 
By the way, I’m no longer the Emperor; I’m here to serve you.


No comments:

Post a Comment