One of the most common questions that we commonly ask when we meet new people is the deadly “What do you do?” and as a reply we usually get something like “I am an accountant, a writer, an engineer”.
Lately I have been reflecting about this kind of replies and I cannot deny that I am really concerned about this idea that we should define ourselves by the job we do. I can understand that we all have a deeper need to feel like we belong to something and that in this respect putting ourselves inside “a box” can be an easy way to relate with those people who belong to this particular “box”. Our job really takes a big share of our time and thus it is normal that working for a long period of time in a certain role ends up making us similar to our colleagues. Still, I believe that over-simplification is not the answer.
I work in research and I cannot say that my colleagues are all the same. They are all different, they have different motivations, different expectations and different backgrounds. I have been in industry for a while. And it was the same. The only things people in the same role had in common were the tasks they had to carry out, the boss they had to listen to and the office they were sharing. Apart from these minor elements, everyone was shaping its own job, everyone was trying to make it as personal as possible.
I wonder what could be the reason why so many people keep defining themselves by the job they do. What kind of information are they trying to pass onto others? Maybe people with high salary job just use this answer to gain “status”, to show that they are wealthy and successful. Still, I want to stress out once again what I have already written some time ago: wealth and material possessions are not the right way through which we should measure success in life. You can be CEO and have the most miserable life and you can be just an intern and have a very fulfilling life.
Defining yourself by the job you do is too liming. It’s like trying to take your whole personality and describing it with a single word. It just does not work. I believe we change who we are according to the situations we are facing, to the people we are interacting with and to our current mindset. A person who is working as a software engineer can be extremely rational and methodical during his working hours and at the same time turn out to be a very caring and emotional person as he goes back to his family. The same goes for people doing very creative works. They can show a methodical approach in other aspects of their lives.
If our job defines something about us, then it defines the range of skills and the attitude that enable us to carry out the specific set of tasks that we are required to perform during our workdays. But for sure we are much more than that.