A Job Title Doesn’t Define You

Where do we find purpose and meaning in today’s world?

For many of us, these things come from our career. Society defines who we are by our job title and often, it’s how we define ourselves. It’s true, we all have to make a living, but it’s all too common for us to also derive our value as a person based on the work we do.

We measure success with job titles and happiness by salary. The second question anyone ever asks when they meet someone new, after their name, is, “So…What do you do?”

“What do I do?” Well, I do a lot of things. A job doesn’t define who I am. It’s how I earn a living.

It’s possible to have a meaningful life, but trying to find it as a cog in the corporate machine is  futile. A job doesn’t give a person purpose or make them valuable. Purpose isn’t (or maybe I should say, shouldn’t be) derived from how we earn a living. That’s true whether you’re an entrepreneur or an office worker. Really, how anyone earns a paycheck is equally unimportant. It’s only money. It’s how we pay the bills.

It’s like trying to define someone by which hand they wipe their ass with.

Unless you’re doing something you really love, work is nothing more than a way to pay the bills. You might enjoy some of the work some of the time but when the day is over, you go home. This is where you engage in real life and it’s here where you ought to find your life purpose, with friends and family, spending time together and engaging in things that bring absolute satisfaction.

Go to work and work hard. Earn that money! But don’t, even for a minute, think a job or a position in some company is a “purpose.” Your purpose in life isn’t to earn a dollar bill.

But what about people who save puppies?

I’ll admit, there are people who do very meaningful work, but even for these people, to define themselves by their work is bad strategy. Surely there must be more to them than their career!

If you work in a career you love and are fortunate enough to be paid for doing that work, kudos to you. It’s the ideal that so many people search for their entire lives. But what about those people who will never love their job? The people who had to settle just to survive?

Or what about the people who hate their life because they loathe their job?

I’ve been there. I earned a decent wage working at a job I hated. And I let my hatred for my work infiltrate every aspect of my life, my mind and my soul, even when I wasn’t working. Why? Because I defined myself as a person by the job I had. No amount of money is worth hating life.

The point here isn’t that Corporate America is evil (even though it is), it’s that how we earn our paycheck doesn’t define who we are as people.

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6 thoughts on “A Job Title Doesn’t Define You

  1. I agree. I’ve always worked hard to make sure I am not defined by my career…and I’ve been lucky to have jobs that I enjoyed! It’s been difficult with some jobs because I was the director of a county organization/well known organization and therefore was known BECAUSE of my job and was psuedo-politico…and I didn’t like that at all. That’s my favorite part of my new job-the anonymity of it.

  2. I completely agree with this. There’s so much more to a person than what they are paid to do, or the town/neighbourhood in which they live.

    When I finally come around to describing the way I make money to people (when they ask something like “So, what do you do?”), I always preface it with, “Well, for my day job, I…” That usually comes out after I talk about my other main interests in life.

    In the interest of full disclosure, my day job is as a career counselor for a non-profit org. It’s my favourite activity I’ve ever been paid to do. :)

  3. A man I know asked my husband upon meeting him for the first time, “What is your passion?” My husband had a really hard time with that question, which got him thinking about how he defines himself. I thought it was a great question to ask someone rather than the standard, “What do you do?”

  4. I agree. We sell our soul in order to earn as much money as possible. Then, we give those money to bankers and politicians. What’s the point?

  5. I am grateful to have stumbled upon this article tonight. I have been passed over for a promotion today and what bothered me more is the fact that I am not as upset as I thought I should be. I did feel fairly uncomfortable about how I will be viewed by others. After reading this, I realised that I have been judging others by what they do for a living, what position they hold at work. And hence, I used the same measure on myself. Thanks for putting this into perspective for me. I feel much better now.

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