When you spend most of your waking hours at work, it’s easy to let your job start to define who you are.
The people you work with, the tasks you perform, and even the location of your office all contribute to how you see yourself.
Not to mention that many people will seemingly judge you on what you do. How many times have you been asked what you do before you are asked your name?
And when you do answer, what do you say? Often, how we allow work to define us can be heard in the language we use to answer that question. I can’t speak for you but people don’t often say “I work as a doctor” or “I am employed as an architect”. They say “I’m a doctor” or “I’m an architect”.
As someone who is partly self-employed, I can say that working for yourself can be even more consuming. There are times when I am constantly thinking about my business whether I am working on it at that time or not; so much so that it can begin to define my thoughts and actions all the time.
But, this shouldn’t be the case. Your job doesn’t need to be who you are as a person or what type of person you are.
Having had a laughable number of career/job changes for my age, I have learned that it is incredibly important to create some separation between your job and your identity.
It is great to be committed and to work hard but allowing your job, and probably the success you achieve in it, to influence and shape your identity can have a hugely detrimental effect on your well-being.
Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t let your job define who you are.
01 You’re job is temporary (probably)
You may be fortunate enough to hold a job for a long time but you would be the exception. The days of working for the same company in a similar role for your entire working life are gone.
And it’s not just me; this is backed up by studies. The Bureau Of Labor Statistics noted that people born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 12.4 jobs between the ages of 18-54. Some theorize that the children of today will hold a total of 40 jobs in ten different career paths.
On a personal level, if there is anything I have learned throughout my working journey, it’s that jobs will come and go, but you will always be there. Losing or quitting your job shouldn’t mean your identity going with it.
Your job is just a small part of who you are. It’s just one aspect of your life — not the whole picture. Yes, it will take up a lot of your time and energy, but it shouldn’t take up your identity.
I’ve worked in finance, as a teacher, as a manager, as a writer, and as an entrepreneur. There were times when I allowed some of these positions to define me and it wasn’t good.
I stopped hobbies that didn’t fit in with my job and began new ones which did. I started hanging out with people at places that were in line with my career.
Allowing what I did to define me, caused my job to become my entire life; I couldn’t relax or be myself. When I changed jobs or chose to go down a different avenue, I no longer knew who I was.
Trust me, this is not the secret to success or happiness.
02 You can be you, no matter what you do
There are certain things that are expected of certain types of people, but there are no rules to being a certain type of person. Your job should not define what you do outside of it.
It doesn’t define your personality. It doesn’t even have a say in your passions or what you love to do.
As a case in point, one of my favorite poets was a bank clerk. In fact, some say he was “the most bank-clerky of all bank clerks.” Who was that poet? It was T.S Elliot.
If he had let his day job define him, the world would be without the works of one of the most influential poets of the twentieth century.
You can be a bank clerk and an exceptional poet. You can be an accountant and still be a painter.
03 You will miss out on other important experiences
If you have a high-powered career, it can be incredibly stressful. You have deadlines to meet, expectations to live up to, and a ton of pressure on your shoulders to do your job correctly.
It is far too easy to let this pressure slip into the rest of your life and cause you to make decisions based on your work only. This will inevitably result in you missing out on things you value.
It’s often said but it’s worth repeating, do you think that on your deathbed you will regret not working enough, or will you regret not traveling or not spending enough time with your loved ones?
Your journey is about more than just your job. It’s about accomplishing your dreams and finding ways to be happy.
For most people, a job is unlikely to be their dream. It should be a means to accomplish their dreams and afford the experiences that bring them joy.
04 Your skillset is far wider than just your current position
Whenever you get a new job, you are expected to have certain skill sets. You’re expected to know how to do certain tasks, solve certain problems, and even how to deal with certain scenarios. But, skills don’t stop there.
You’ve likely learned some valuable skills throughout your entire working life that are applicable to a different career path than the one you’re on right now.
For example, you might be a marketing manager by day, but you might also be fluent in four different languages. Your job might be in marketing, but knowing four other languages has nothing to do with your current position.
If you don’t let your current job define you, you will likely see more career options which isn’t a bad thing.
Even if you never use these skills, knowing you have them and can use them if needed is an incredibly powerful thing.
….that’s it for today guys!
To conclude, your job is just a small part of who you are. It’s just one aspect of your life — not the whole picture.
Yes, it will take up a lot of your time and energy, but it shouldn’t take up your identity. It should be an outlet or something that allows you to accomplish something you love to do.
If you allow what you do to define who you are, it will limit you and stop you from living the life that is meant for you.
As always, I hope you found this post useful. If you have any thoughts or experiences on this that may be helpful to other readers, we’d love it if you could share them in the comments!