Opinion: Searching for the Noun

Opinion: Searching for the Noun

When you’re working it’s common to define your self as what you do. At a social gathering or networking event you are a [fill in the blank] lawyer, doctor, CEO, manager, etc.

What happens when that goes away? You may be out of a job, retiring, changing careers or have decided to stay home with your young family. There may be times where your definition of self is not as clear as it used to be.

Tip one: Embrace the loss. There is a sense of loss when your identity is in transition and you’re no longer a [fill in the blank]. It’s natural to feel a sadness. You’ll know if this is happening if you stumble when you meet someone new and search for words. Or you might be saying “I used to ….”

Tip two: Start early. Choose more than one identity to define your self. Ask yourself, if I wasn’t a [fill in the blank], what would I be? What else, other than work, is meaningful to you? Search around for something to get involved with — before there is a change in your status.

Tip three: Practice. When you’re out and about try on different nouns. I’m a volunteer. I’m a coach. I’m a speaker. I’m a motivator. I’m a blogger. Realize that how you fill in the blank is more important to you than others. People you encounter are more interested in talking about themselves than hearing who you are. They need to hear a noun, they don’t need to understand your noun.

Tip four: Plan ahead. See tip two. Maybe you don’t know what is meaningful right now. Each quarter or so, try on something new. Volunteer some place that is remotely interesting, you might find it is very interesting. Research different jobs — interview people in those jobs. Who do you admire and what are they doing?

Tip five: Get out. Every day or each week do something a little different. Put yourself in a different place — a new coffee shop, a library or a park. Getting out of a routine can get your creative juices flowing. Opportunities often come from places you least expect.

Tip six: Get involved. Attend public meetings. Comment on blogs. Write editorials. Reach out beyond yourself.

Tip seven: Blank sheet of paper. You can be any noun you want to be. You can fill in your own blank. Leave the judgment at the door. Ask a friend or a spouse what they think your noun is. They may show you a direction that you never dreamed of.

Remember there are no “noun” police. You have the power to create any noun you want to be.

Holly Herman is a guest writer for Senior Services of Alexandria. She helps people find their nouns. She is an executive coach, speaker, trainer, blogger and meeting facilitator. You can find other great tips for personal and professional development on her website www.AchievingSkills.com.

For information on Senior Services of Alexandria, call 703-836-4414 ext.11.