Monday, August 31, 2015

Does your job define who you are?

I've been thinking a lot lately about how intertwined our jobs are in our lives and our identities. For some, a job is simply a way to pay the bills. For others, their job is as much a part of their identity as their education, their hobbies, or even their families. The thing I've been wrestling with is whether your job defines who you are.

What your job says about you

It's interesting when you really sit down to think about it because you can actually deduce a lot about a person just by their job. For instance it can tell people or at least be an indicator of
  • Your relative education level
  • Your relative intelligence level
  • Your interests
  • Your hobbies
  • How motivated you are to succeed
For example, if you meet someone who's job is software engineer you can be pretty confident that they've got at least a bachelors degree (most likely a bachelors of science) and could have a masters degree (which is more common these days).

Knowing their employer can possibly tell you even more. For instance someone who has been at their job for at least a year at Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft will tell you that the person is probably slightly competitive, most likely always excelled amongst their peer group, and wants to work on problems that affect a large user base.

What your job doesn't say about you

With the exception of a few job categories, your job likely doesn't say
  • Whether you are interesting or not
  • Whether you have social skills
  • Whether you are emotionally mature
  • Whether you are kind or cold
  • Whether you are empathetic or apathetic
  • Whether you are selfish or selfless
  • Whether you prioritize your family first
To know these things, you have to actually know the person.

Does your job define who you are?

Now we're back to the original question that started this post. Given the above, I think that your job says a lot about you and it can describe your attributes well. But it cannot define you.

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