When you meet someone for the first time, a common question you may ask or be asked is what do you do? For the last 39 years (less 1 day) my response has been “I work for IBM”. I have said this with great pride as this has been an amazing place to work. However, in 3 days I will transition into the next chapter of my life. I really don’t know how I will feel on Wednesday if someone asks me this question. More importantly how do I respond? I could simply say I am retired, yet that would not be correct. After all I have created a portfolio of roles that I expect will keep me “fully employed”.
It seems that our work or employment is used as a proxy for what defines us as a valuable human. We are amazing in many ways and we do many things without being fully conscious of this. We breathe, we pump blood around our bodies, we have a mind that can think, we interact with the world through a range of senses and so on. This is a very long list and we could be the bore at the party and could use this as your response to the question. I suspect you may rapidly become the one standing alone with no one to talk to. Nevertheless we do regularly need a reminder to be grateful for all the amazing things that our bodies do for us and allow us to live.
At IBM we have a workshop for senior technical leaders that helps them prepare for future career progression. One of their tasks is to develop a tag line for themselves. A short snappy phrase that distinguishes them for everyone else and is the essence of their past and future. For me that tag line has been “helping create the world we all want to be part of”. Maybe that should be my answer in the future and that should be used to define me? Alternatively I could simply say I appreciate all the learning opportunities life gives me and try to make others happy. I suspect the response may change with the context and depend on who is asking!
How do you respond to someone asking you what you do? Have you thought about what your answer should be? What advice would you give?