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A Whole-Self Work Life

Body of Work: buy the book!

”In the old world of work, we described specific career paths, such as doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, or writer. In today’s world of work, due to either personal choice or circumstances outside your control, there is a great chance that you will change your work mode at least once in your career. More likely multiple times.“

Pamela Slim, Body of Work

That means cultivating the ability to adapt. But more than adapt, we can go a step further and find overlooked treasures in our personal and work history to weave a whole new narrative.

In Pamela Slim’s new book, Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, you are likely to locate yourself on its thoughtful question-filled pages. Award-winning author, business coach and speaker, Pam has touched a nerve at at time when people are eager to use all of themselves in their work. Read more

What Do You Really Do?

When asked the question, “What do you do?” most of us reply by reciting a role we play. When you think about it, if you say, “I’m an accountant,” you haven’t really replied to the inherent action part of the question. The doing part. Most of us see ourselves in roles—mother, barista, graphic designer, farmer—which is really just a set of clothes we wear most of our waking hours. It says nothing of who we are, what we care about, what our talents are, how our work makes us feel, what we think we give to the world.

Off and on for the last year or more, I’ve been evaluating my business and asking myself if I’m following my passions enough, serving the people I really want to serve, and putting things out into the world that are a good representation of my skills and talents and values.

In all the resources I’ve come across, one of the most often cited aspects of this exploration is learning how to say what you do without putting people to sleep. “I’m an accountant,” is a surefire way to put someone to sleep. No offense to accountants.

If that accountant were to say “I make one of the most unpleasant days of the year easy for people and sometimes even pleasant,” he or she would have your attention. Everyone wants an unpleasant day to be easier and even pleasant. They’d be curious to know which day you were talking about. Then they’d be curious enough to ask, “Well, how exactly do you do that?”

Now you’re having a conversation because you’ve captured their attention with a need they can relate to. People want to see themselves in there somewhere.

Even if you were a member of a circus, which sounds infinitely more interesting than what most of us do, you’d still cut your listener off. A role as an answer is a dead end. There’s nowhere go. “I take people out of reality to a magical place,” is the kind of answer that starts a conversation.

Recently, at a party, I met a woman who was a third grade teacher. I liked Pam instantly. I was working through exercises myself to answer that very question, “What do you do?” When I asked her what she did, she answered like most of us do.

“Can I help you reframe that?” I asked. “Here’s what you really do. You help shape young minds to thrive in this world.”

Her face lit up and a smile spread across her face like I’d just planted flowers along her career path. We were in a room full of web-savvy people. If she had said “third grade teacher” to anyone in there, she probably would have received only polite nods.

Just then a young woman walked up and introduced herself. When she asked Pam what she did, Pam stood up straight and threw her shoulders back. She looked at me and whispered with a smile, “I’m going to try it out.”

So, what do you really do?

Service With a Smile

“Hello beautiful,” the hostess at an airport restaurant said as I approached the hostess stand. I was aroused from my airport stupor at the unfamiliar phrase. I hadn’t even been in the airport that long. I was simply tired and hungry and had opted for a later flight (and a free round trip ticket voucher) and had time to sit and enjoy a meal.

Her simple, yet rare these days, hospitality gave me a jolt. Immediately, my shoulders loosened and I smiled.

“Can I have a…,” I started to say, before she cut me off.

“I’ve got you covered sweetheart. A table with an outlet next to it. I see you’re a woman who’s a smart professional,” she said with a big smile.

I didn’t have a visible laptop case and don’t normally carry a computer, except on this trip I had one. I hardly looked professional and didn’t feel particularly smart in that moment.

I sat near the hostess stand and listened to her greet everyone who entered the restaurant. The most sour-looking frowns morphed into smiles upon her greeting. Later I called her over and asked what was her secret. How did she get to be so positive? A year ago she was out of work and was flipping through the channels on her TV. Today, she as a job and feels blessed.

“I meet the most beautiful people in this place. All the people coming and going from interesting places. What is not to feel positive about? I love people. I love my job.”

What I forgot to do was tell her boss to give that woman a raise.