Earned and Given

Lately I’ve been struggling with giving oneself titles such as expert, leader, and change-agent.

Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer
Courtesy of Brian D. Proffer

My perspective is that titles are not only earned but also given. Calling yourself an expert, leader, change-agent etc. is easy enough. However, I’m always wary of self-given titles. I can call myself a Panda Expert, but am I really a Panda Expert? I think that whether you are considered a leader, expert etc. is dependant on your community and their experience with your work and knowledge in a given area and if they feel they can give you those titles.

I think this has been on my mind for several reasons including the multitude of resumes that I am reviewing for friends and because I’ve been looking at colleagues’ bios and descriptions of themselves on their social media platforms to help me improve my own. But perhaps the most significant reason why this has been on my mind is probably from my final days at my previous institution.

As my final days loomed closer to my departure at my last institution, I had many colleagues come to say good bye. There were chats, coffee, hugs, some tears and even cupcakes decorated as Pandas :). But the most impactful thing they sent me off with was the honor of referring to me as a few positive and impactful identities and titles that I always aspired to, but never wanted to refer to myself as. I always felt that self-identifying as them seemed empty to me. During my many conversations, and as these titles came up, it was such a validation of me as a professional and put my work into a purposeful context.

Now, I still don’t refer to myself as those titles or identities. But I also know that I am reaching my aspirations. My friends and colleagues do see those qualities and traits in me that I aspire to, so I feel that I don’t have to announce it to the world.

I’ll be honest, titles such as leader, expert, change-agent, etc. can look nice and be really impressive. But the content and practice is what will really earn you the titles. And if you are truly an expert or leader or change agent or whatever else, you won’t have to say it. Everyone will already know it by your actions and work.

So don’t focus so much on the titles you give yourself to impress and convince everyone that you are an expert, change-agent, or leader. Put your focus on being you and the best professional and person you can be, and people will know you are a leader, expert, etc. without you having to tell them.

Until next time,

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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