There is no better time to answer this question than the beginning of the year, when the hopes of fulfilling New Year's resolutions are still sincere: how do you want to be described?
For most people, when meeting someone new, they introduce themselves with their work details. Listening in, it seems that the personal and professional identities are morphed into one. And that is no surprise, given that the standard questions during an introduction in the region tend to be: "What do you do? Where are you from? How long have you been here?"
When I reflect on this, I wonder: if I didn't go into the office every day, who would I be?
Society has pigeonholed us into thinking that our identities are related to our business cards. But is my title really all there is to me?
And is that how you want to be described, or is there something that is more reflective of you?
Borrowing from the famed MIT professor Edgar Schein, I'd like to highlight what anchors our careers - and drives why we work. It is more than a title on a card.Do Make Say Think – In Mind
Technically focused people like being really good at something and work to become experts.
General management-focused people crave being managers - and not just for the title or prestige of it. They thrive on responsibility and like solving problems and working with other people.
Autonomy or independence-focused people favour working alone and under their own rules. This profile does not enjoy corporate settings, as the bureaucracy is suffocating to them.
Security-focused people seek stability above all else and hope to avoid risk. This profile generally abhors the idea of being an expatriate, so in the GCC it will be present only within national populations.
Entrepreneurship-focused people are creative and prefer to run their own businesses. Ownership is important to them. But unlike the independence-focused people, they want to work with other people.
Service-focused people, or those dedicated to causes, are driven by how they can help others.
Pure challenge-focused people seek constant stimulation and difficult problems to overcome. Such people change jobs when they become bored, and their careers may involve experimentation in various sectors and professions. This seems to align well with being an expatriate.
Lifestyle-focused people are another group that aligns well with the expatriate lifestyle. They are focused first on the lifestyle value, as this is their whole pattern of living. They may even take long periods off work in which to indulge in passions such as sailing or travelling.
Hidden behind your title is a secret identity that describes why you really work - beyond the paycheck. So instead of relying on your business card for your identity, why not pause to understand what matters most about your work personality?
Perhaps the next time someone asks "what do you do?", your response can be real and show what anchors your career.
Remember, a person makes a position, but a title does not make a person.
Tommy Weir is an authority on fast-growth and emerging-market leadership, author of The CEO Shift and the managing director of the Emerging Market Leadership Center