From VIP to UIP

I charged through the five-day South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival. The Interactive part of the annual SXSW festival focuses on emerging technology, and the hot topic for this year is social media. I pushed myself to attend 90% of the panels my schedule allowed. I reckon that 30% of the panels I attended were worthwhile. Not a bad haul.

SXSW is a big networking event — a popularity contest. More so than the BigLaw world, people in this interactive sphere size you up by who you work for, what you do, and how many Twitter followers you have. If you work for Facebook, Foursquare, or Groupon, and have a 60+ Klout score (a score that measures your overall online influence), then you are a VIP — a Very Important Person. I am the epitome of an UIP — an Un-Important Person.

Not that long ago, I had my VIP moments, being whisked away in limos to attend secretive, billion-dollar-stake meetings with Fortune 500 CEOs who would know my name (from the emails I would send during the wee hours). Attending cocktail parties and dinners at the Rainbow Room or Cipriani felt like being a fish in a high-end aquarium.

Now, I had to wait in a long line to catch an overcrowded shuttle bus to the conference center and rush to grab a seat before they were all taken. When people tried to name drop (which happened often), I pretended to know who they were talking about to avoid looking like a naif.

The world outside BigLaw is vast. In my Quitting BigLaw series, I said that I wanted “to experience the world I’ve yet to know and to push past limitations I’ve yet to test.” I am doing that, but it is not as easy or thrilling as I expected. It is hard to admit that I am a nobody.

Not that I was a “somebody” in BigLaw – I was just a person on the StairMaster with the projection and hope of becoming a “somebody” one day. But I could always count on the name of BigLaw to lend me some credibility, to provide me with the perks that others envied.

Now, I must stand on my own two feet, and make something of myself. What does it mean to make something of myself? Many SXSW panels I attended focused on the importance of using social media tools to build a personal brand that could help you to become a “somebody” in your sphere. But I realized that my goal is not to chase tens of thousands of Twitter followers, to get a Klout score of 60+, to become a brand. My ultimate goal is to doing the thing that gives me fulfillment rather than being a “somebody”. If I become a “somebody” along the way of doing what I love, that would be icing on the cake.

I know what that “thing” is now. I can’t share it yet because I am in the middle of working on it, which involves confidential business dealings. I do hope that I will be able to unveil it before too long.

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5 Responses to From VIP to UIP

  1. ZK says:

    Admire you telling this out loud! I guess I have been dealing with the same “nobody” issue for quite some time. I moved to U.S. from another country, where professionally I would have probably been more successful than here and where people knew that I am “somebody”. Here, all of sudden the self-perception of myself as “somebody” is not in sync with other people’s view on m; in other words they are not accepting or giving me the credit to the same level as my peers, friends and colleagues back in my home country. It is hard and it is normal. We are human beings and of course want to be accepted as we are, but unfortunately having a good job and important position bears so much more weight than our naked self for some people and, especially, when meeting new people.
    I guess the ultimate thing is what you are going to do about it, and it seems that you are moving in the right direction. Similarly, I don’t want to be “somebody” just to make people accept me. I want a transition so that I have both fulfillment and paycheck to support my family. I keep worrying whether the new carrier I am heading to is going to give me fulfillment.
    It almost feels that when we make a stop in our professional journey, we advance in our inner journey. Stay strong!

    • everysixminutes says:

      You brought up a very interesting point. Being a “somebody” is as much others’ perception as our own. Others’ perception can certainly influence our own, but it is so important that we be comfortable with our “naked self” as you put it. I am learning, in this journey, to be grounded in my own opinions and desires and happiness.

      Thank you for your encouraging words, and best of luck to you!

  2. Lisa says:

    I liked reading this. I’ve heard about SXSW so much, but your post made me think that would be my exact experience if I went. I love your line “My ultimate goal is to doing the thing that gives me fulfillment rather than being a ‘somebody’. If I become a ‘somebody’ along the way of doing what I love, that would be icing on the cake.” I’d like to get to that level of acceptance of non-somebodyness sometime!

  3. Jay says:

    Agreed…Good luck,Jen!!!!

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