What Persona Have You Performed?
We all take on a Persona when we go to work. You may be saying, “Huh … what is a persona?”
Dictionary.com defines it as “
You are an actor at work. Whether you like it or not you go to work and you play a role or a persona.
As kids, our behaviors and self-image are shaped by our parents, school, peers, society, media, and many other external forces. We learn to play a role at a very young age. How much we morph our behaviors to fit that role will depend upon our upbringing.
I was talking with a good friend the other day who said to me:
“I was always told not to be a starving artist. Therefore, I never followed my creative side.”
My friend will write a post on this topic later but this is a classic example. She went ahead and pursued a Master’s Degree in Health Administration. That path was unfulfilling and she would later pursue being a technical writer, trainer, and instructional designer. She was good at it but it was all an “act.”
After several career pivots, she was sick of the persona that she had chosen. She wanted to be an artist and is working on making a living from it. I call her a logical creative.
Her persona was chosen for her starting in her childhood.
Persona at Work
For myself, my persona developed over time while working for IBM.
I joined IBM in the late 1970’s after receiving a Computer Science degree from Northwestern University.
IBM assigned me to be a programmer writing software for a couple of different IBM Word Processing systems. I hated it!
WAIT! I just spent 4 years in college developing programming skills. Yes, I had the skills. However, to write low-level software 8-hours a day, 5-days a week was torture. YUK! But, I could not say that. I was very highly compensated, bought a house when I was 22 years of age, and I was successful – and miserable.
This was not me. Some of my story is chronicled in my post Baby Boomer Walkabout – A Moment of Clarity.
I was playing a role that I hated. I had chosen a persona out of ignorance.
What If You Do Not Know You Are Playing a Role?
I have had several clients in the past where their persona (or facade) had become real to them. They believed that they were that persona.
In my 22 years at IBM, I convinced myself that I was an extrovert while I am really a closet introvert.
Why did I take on the role of an extrovert (public speaker and trainer)?
I got paid more! In fact, I got paid a lot of money. I was an articulate, “techno-weenie” or geek that could speak.
It was only in my last corporate gig, working for a tech startup, that I realized I had taken on that role and could no longer keep it up. It was exhausting.
I really had no idea that I was playing a role. Everything, eventually, came crashing down in exhaustion. It was only then I realized it was all an elaborate charade. I could no longer play the charade. I was good at it but it consumed massive amounts of energy to play the role.
What is Your Persona?
Are you an actor? Admit it. We all have done it to some extent in our career.
Some of us have learned to be expert actors and build these elaborate personas. Our own self-image is wrapped up in maintaining that persona.
I want you to go back to your childhood. What were you like when you were in 1st grade? Were you shy or social? How active were you? Did you love books or music?
Compare how you were as a kid to how you are now, or more importantly, how you are at work.
What is different? When did you change? Why?
That should give you a hint of the persona that you are playing.