The problem with boxes

“So, what do you do?” has become a very hard question to answer.

Having just left the corporate world with its safety net of job titles, roles and responsibilities, divisions and departments, I am now trying to find a way to define not just what I do, but who I am.

I’ve always had this problem. The over-riding theme of my 14 years as an employee was one of trying to find a “me-shaped” box, and failing. I have tried very different jobs, without finding the one that fulfilled me, that let me use my breadth of knowledge, interests and experience.

Recently I have come across two definitions that, when combined, explain who I am - a “t-shaped scanner”.

What a mouthful.

In practice this means that I have a very broad range of interests and knowledge, whilst retaining deep skills in one area (thanks to my Chartered Accountancy qualification).  My bookshelves groan under the weight of tomes on business models, innovation, creative writing, psychology, marketing, productivity, sketching, entrepreneurship and bio-mimicry. Not to mention novels and athlete autobiographies.

This breadth of learning and research is important to me. It’s a key part of who I am. I believe that the more I learn the better able I am to apply my skills in the right way, and the more I can help the people I work with.

Whilst this helps me understand myself better, its not (yet) getting me closer to finding that one term – or “unifier” as Ian Sanders’ calls it – that defines me to others.

There are times I’m jealous of those who have a clear calling to a role with a name that people understand – graphic designer, finance director, copywriter – but I have to remain true to who I am, and keep looking for my very own, unique, label.

Suggestions on a postcard please.