Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Job Define You

Ashley Falzone
Ashley is your semi-above-average 20 something living in Astoria who lives and breathes NYC life. She goes about her days looking forward to all the food she will consume. She also loves referencing Kanye West quotes in her articles whenever applicable.

As children, a familiar question for most has been “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You grow older feeling that this is extremely important, that you must have some idea, because it’s how you will be judged as an adult. Your amazing teenage job as a carnie at the local amusement park just won’t cut it anymore. This is what defines you. It’s the natural progression. In college, we are 18, yet expected to choose a career for the rest of our lives. It’s supposed to be something that defines us, but also sustains us financially. Oh, you want to be an artist? Good luck, because you may not be able to make a living. You’re taught that your career successes are dependent upon how much money you make and the prestige of your title.

“What do you do?” is the question that becomes commonplace in adulthood. You go on dates, you go to parties, you meet new people, and what you do becomes a major part of who you are. Doctor? Everyone is proud, everyone is interested. You force everyone to say “Dr. so and so” when they speak to you (because I know I would). You earned that title.

But say you aren’t a doctor, and instead you have a job that you feel embarrassed about or isn’t quite as dignified. If this is the case, then you have no way to introduce yourself by your accomplishments, and that causes shame and anxiety. Some believe that your job is who you are, what you’ll now be known for. But is this really the way it should be? Is your job all that you are as a person? Is this how our lives should be defined, by what we do essentially to make money? The questions go on and on.

First of all, the struggle is real. Many people are not involved in fulfilling jobs that they feel can represent them as a person. There seems to be an underlying assumption that we need to have everything in place for our future by 22. However, entry level sometimes isn’t ‘entry’, and jobs aren’t as readily available for our generation as they were in the past. This causes us to make sacrifices and changes to our career plans and goals. Entering the job-world, this isn’t the way it was supposed to be, and we blame ourselves instead of the societal structures that have contributed to this. But this should not force us to feel lesser than those who may seem to have it all together, because this isn’t our only source of self-worth. If you feel that your job represents who you are, then that’s a wonderful thing. But for most, we rely on the many other things that represent and sustain us besides our careers.

No job title can fully define all that a person is, nor should we grow up feeling as if it does (or should). Just because somebody became a lawyer doesn’t mean it was their top career choice. It could have been to follow in family footsteps or to have a damn good salary (some lawyers, anyway). Titles shouldn’t define people or allow for feelings of superiority. Rather, by actually getting to know someone on a deeper level, seeing their actions and seeing their core persona,  we create a level of professionalism and sensitivity. Everyone has a passion or goal. A title is just a word and should not dictate actions.

Make that dough how you need to (not condoning illegal actions here….), but choose to live in ways that make you happy outside of work. Visit museums, spend time with the people that you love, lay in the park for an entire day, or sit in front of the TV for day watching the entire series of “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix (yes, this makes me happy). You may not have acquired that “perfect” job, that amazing career, a situation that makes you feel fulfilled every single day, and that’s ok. Because when you discover and nurture other aspects of your personality, and find what matters to you, your definition changes. During adulthood, the question “what do you do” becoming “what do you enjoy” is a possible and a worthwhile cause.


Photo Source: Ivaous