As I’m having plenty of time to think and try not to get nauseous when our Central American bus drivers race up the mountain at the speed of light, this question came to mind. Are people being defined by their job or career? Am I defining myself by my career?
I had a lot of thoughts at that moment and there were too many potholes on the road to writing them down. Sorry not sorry if this turns into a rant – just so that you’re prepared.
Personally, I have a job in finance, where I do different things for different clients as a consultant. I am currently on my mini-retirement, but I’ll continue my job when I return home.
On this trip, I’ve met many people. One common denominator: many of them ask me what I do.
When I tell people I work in finance, they often make all kinds of assumptions. What kind of person I am, what my values are, or how much money I make.
They are trying to get to know me better and estimating if they could get along with me, mostly based on what I do between 9 and 5. Interesting right?
It’s Just Assumptions
Often we make generalizations about someone largely based on what kind of work they do.
Assumptions are just assumptions, it doesn’t mean that they should be true in every case. When someone has a specific job, that doesn’t mean that is what they value.
Most people have a job to afford the things they want outside the 9 to 5. What someone does outside of work shows more of who you are and what you like.
Only if you have your dream job, this can be true. If you don’t, it’s just assumptions.
You Decide If Your Job Defines You
Most people have a job and most people have hobbies. YOU can decide which one you want to define you.
Does your career define you? Do you want that?
I don’t derive my personal value from what I do between 9 and 5, I define myself by my hobbies. What I love to do is something completely different compared to my job.
If you love your job and you feel very connected with your job, you can let this define you.
Both are fine, there is no bad choice here. Just YOUR choice.
Are you unsure of what defines you? Do you want to change what defines you?
Think about what gives you joy – things that you love to share with other people. Things that you are proud of. If you put the emphasis on that, it will help you stay more positive.
Reasons To Not Let Your Job Define You
1. Your career isn’t around forever.
It can be hard to let go of your job if you let it define you. Imagine that you decide to retire early, decide to be a stay-at-home parent, or you are let go of your job.
It would be very inconvenient if your status is very closely tied to your job. If a job is no longer part of your life, you can get a really hard time emotionally. Let’s try and prevent that.
Besides that, jobs constantly change. You will grow in your current job, change jobs, and will continue to do other things over time.
2. You are more than your job.
If work is the only thing you can talk about, it can get a little boring for the ones around. It’s only one-third of your day – there is more than only working!
Try to follow your joy outside of work, building those outside interests. Perhaps you want to start hiking, biking, or try a new sport. You could even go crazy and start a blog for cheap – why not?
If you’re doing that, you will have a much better comeback for the original ‘what do you do?’ question.
3. Your job doesn’t define your happiness
Everyone in life wants to be happy and stay that way.
Think about it: are the people with a ‘better’ job happier?
Essentially, happiness is about valuing what you already have. What is already in your life. It’s not something that comes from a higher salary or a promotion.
How To Prevent Your Job From Defining You
If you’ve been letting yourself be defined by your job in the past, that’s okay. If it’s something that you enjoy, that’s great and let’s keep it that way!
But if you’re having a hard time finding your personality besides work, here are some tips:
- Think about what your job means to you – it pays your bills and it is what you do for 8 hours every day. Is it what your soul needs? Does it give you joy?
- Define yourself how YOU want – if someone is asking the ‘what do you do?’ question, it’s up to you how you answer that. You can always ask them what they want to know, by replying ‘for fun or for money?’.
- Have a life outside of work – it’s important to not only have coworkers as friends, but also have friends outside of work. Friends that will support you when something happens with your job situation.
- Follow your joy – if you spend more time on things that you enjoy, who knows where that will take you? You will most likely be happier at work when you have something else that you can work on in your free time. For example, I have discovered blogging about a year ago. It’s something that I truly enjoy and love to spend time on.
Does your job define you? Are you planning on changing that?
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Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
- Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
- Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
- Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.