One of the first questions we ask anyone we meet is: “What do you do?”
Our society places a great deal of importance on the work we do. Your job determines how much money you make, and on some occasions, the level of prestige you have in your community. Your job may give you an idea where you fit in the world.
In many cases, we let our jobs define us on a very basic level. Here’s what I mean:
Money and Status
Because jobs compensate workers at varying levels, it’s common to associate a job with status. We often grant higher social status to those with money. Often, the more money you make, the more admired you are. In fact, many people are forgiven undesirable traits just because they have money.
If you have a job that allows you to earn a great deal of money, you might enjoy a higher status among your peers. Even when the job is one we tend to mock as a society (lawyer comes to mind), the fact that a person in that profession has money is a mitigating factor (at least as far as status is concerned).
Money opens doors that might otherwise remain closed. When you have a high-paying job, you have access to other wealthy people, others with status and power, and additional opportunities for your children. In a very real way, it’s possible for your job to define you for your entire life — just because of the amount of money you make and the socio-economic status that comes with it.
Do You Identify With Your Job?
Of course, not everyone sees money as the be-all and end-all when it comes to status. In some cases, the job is more about defining yourself through your profession. For example, I identify deeply with my career choice. I am a writer — and that is who I am, as well as what I do.
There are plenty of other jobs that also serve as definitions. Consider teachers, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, public relations specialists, and others. It’s who they are, and what they want others to know about them.
This doesn’t apply to everyone, though. There are those who do what they do, but don’t let it define who they are. In some cases, it’s preferable to leave the work at work and try to define yourself in other terms. It all depends on your level of job satisfaction, and what you get out of it — even if it’s not a lot of money.
Does your job define you? Or does something else?