Who You Are Isn’t Written on Your Resume

by Alli Polin on January 18, 2013

leadership is about who you are you are not your title or resume

Who am I anyway?  Am I my resume?  That is a picture of a person I don’t know.  ~ A Chorus Line

I have a secret: The higher up I was promoted in organizations, the more I associated who I am with my title and the more I lost… me.

I started as an analyst and I had a full and rich life.  I worked a ton but also made the time for friends, colleagues and shared adventures.  Then, just two years in, something happened… I got my first promotion and was officially supervising other people.  My old peers were no longer inviting me to lunch as often and, as if was possible to find more hours in the day, I cranked up my hours even further.  In that moment, who I am and what I do started to get blurry.

The attachment to title over inner knowing and living my core values became even more evident in the months before the year 2000 when I decided to leave my go-go-go consulting life and move into a senior HR position.  Overnight I moved from working in the core business to… overhead.  I had a hard time not with the work, but with the transition of titles.

Still, I climbed higher and higher until the view was high enough for me to see that I couldn’t see myself anymore.  I was like a dot beside a big ladder.  It was time to take stock of my passion and my purpose and finally listen to the stories they were telling me.

I started to ask myself some critical questions:

  • Who am I as a leader?
  • Who am I as a person?
  • Am I really a different person at work and in my life?
  • What do I love?
  • What do I really want?

I worked with my coach to dive deep into my personal values.  He helped me to reconnect with my inner INFP from college and shed some of the INTJ I’d put on and let grow like a big winter coat enveloping me as I played into my corporate persona.

Ask Yourself:

  • Do you know who you are underneath your corporate persona?
  • Do you bring the same level of authenticity with you both in and out of work?
  • Are you living a life in alignment with your core values?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What is your personal leadership legacy?

You Have the Title, Now Find YOU

The right to lead is not found in your job description or handed to you by virtue of your title.

  • Leadership is found in authentic connection
  • Leadership is found in honesty with self and others
  • Leadership is found in a commitment to learning
  • Leadership is found in caring and engaging
  • Leadership is found in listening with an open heart and mind
  • YOU are found when you know yourself so others can know you as a leader and as a human being.

You, my friend, are more than your title whether it’s Analyst, Manager, CEO, Engineer Level 3, Director, President, VP, or Executive Director.

Who you are and what you bring to the table is much more than the history of accomplishment listed on your resume.  Make the time to journal, work with a coach or talk with a trusted advisor on a regular basis not only to review action plans for your next big project but also get to know the leader inside of you.  Discover what matters most, know your message, and share it with the world. 

Do you know your purpose?  What is your passion?  Are you living a life in alignment or discord with your core values?

(Photo credit)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan Forbes January 18, 2013 at 6:54 am

Personal stories like yours Alli are so inspirational. Thanks for sharing your journey. It brought you to a better place. Great questions everyone should ask themselves.


alli January 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Thanks, Dan! Many people share a similar experience despite their unique paths. We are not as different as we may think. Many of us share a longing for a life of meaning lived in alignment with our values. You show us what it looks like to have a life of meaning every day!


Blair January 18, 2013 at 8:54 am

First of all, I’m going to love any post that begins with a musical theater quote.:) But more importantly you really get to the heart of what everyone struggles with: how can I be true to my role and to myself (core values) at the same time? How can I stay connected to what is important to me when my title becomes “important?”
The questions you ask in this post will help leaders stay connected to what matters. It’s got me thinking, Thanks, Alli!


alli January 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Thanks so much, Blair. You put it beautifully… it’s about staying true to our core values when our title rises in importance. What we do is absolutely a part of who we are – just not one and the same. It’s a struggle that most leaders don’t like to talk about at work – it can be a lonely place caught between a job and title they love and their inner-voice that is looking for more connection.

You ALWAYS get me thinking, Blair. Appreciate your insights.


Sarupa Shah, The Soul Agent January 18, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I so hear you Alli here, sometimes climbing a ladder can make you feel isolated when you are not confident…and when you are not sure what you really want to do, so ending up somewhere can feel like being deserted on an island…. 😉


alli January 19, 2013 at 4:32 am

You’re right, Sarupa. You may have arrived with a big title and a big house and a big life, but you can also feel very much alone at the same time. Unsure of who you are and what it really means to be authentically you. Great metaphor!


Jon Mertz January 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

Wonderful questions, Alli, to think about and answer. Thank you for sharing your story as well as your insights. It is so important to think deeper about what we are doing and how we are doing it. It is a way to ensure we are on the right path and doing things for a better purpose. Thanks! Jon


alli January 19, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Thank you, Jon! I was going through life with determination and finding plenty of accomplishment without deeper meaning. When I started to find my answers, I didn’t need to radically change my job to be able to do it with new passion and purpose.


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