For most people, their job is a large part of their personal identity, but people need a professional identity that is separate and distinct from their current position.
Let me give you an example of someone who has broken this paradigm, someone who has an identity that is separate and distinct from his current position. I first met Will Lassalle a few years ago when he was working as a contract project manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield. What made Lassalle so fascinating and why our company interviewed him was his blog, "Next Great CIO." Wait a minute, this guy is a project manager, not even a full-time employee, and he has a blog called the "Next Great CIO"? You see, the "Next Great CIO" is Lassalle’s identity. It is who he is. And because it is not tied to any position he holds, he will never lose it. Lassalle has hundreds of followers, which is amazing for a contract project manager.
Lassalle is currently head of North America IT for the StudyGroup. And he is the same person that we interviewed several years ago. He has the same identity. There are others like Lassalle, but the number of people who have an identity that is separate and distinct from their current position are few. To most people, their current position is so much a part of their identity that when they lose it, they lose a part of themselves. It is like Superman without his costume; he still has all of his supernatural powers, but he knows that people view him differently.
Creating a Separate Identity
In today’s world, it is rare for IT leaders to stay at a company for more than a few years. So what does that mean for your identity? Do you need to keep re-inventing yourself? Proving yourself in every new position? After all, the time to accomplish these things is compressed because of the shortened tenures with each new company or position.
At The IT Transformation Institute, we realized that the IT leader of the future, the leader of the next-generation IT organization, will need an identity separate and distinct from their current position. They will need an identity that will move with them between companies and positions, an identity that defines them and their purpose so they can quickly start transforming their new organization. But the question remains, how do you establish that new identity?
We have been brainstorming ideas about ways to help people define their professional identity. If this whole concept of an identity independent of your present position appeals to you, please drop us a note at MyIdentidy@TransformingIT.org. We want to hear your ideas and why you think it is important.
Finally, I am no longer that guy whose hands were shaking years ago when I lost my position at AT&T. If you check my LinkedIn profile, you will see that I now think of myself as a "Transformational Leader, Change Agent, and Writer and Speaker," which has nothing to do with my current position. It took a long time to get here, but I am glad that I made the journey.
About the Author
John Palinkas is a partner at The IT Transformation Institute. He has spent more than three decades in the IT services industry, working with industry leaders like AT&T, AT&T Solutions and British Telecom. He has led numerous multimillion dollar, multiyear outsourcing and service-delivery engagements for dozens of Fortune 500 firms. He has extensive experience and expertise in IT transformation efforts, outsourcing analysis, M&A integrations and service implementations. John serves on the executive committee for NJ SIM Chapter, the leadership team of NJ itSMF LIG, and is a regular contributor to CIO Insight. He can be reached via email at John.Palinkas@TransformingIT.org, and you can follow him on Twitter via @jpalinkas.
To read his previous CIO Insight article, "A Geek's Guide to the Customer Service Experience," click here.