So, what do you do?”
“Well, I’m a [insert job here] but, you know, it’s just my job.”
We’ve all witnessed this conversation, maybe as the recipient or as the speaker. Other responses include “that’s not who I am” or “I do other stuff too”.
I want to say these are excuses, but they’re not, they’re justifications. These answers are not for my benefit. This person might care what I think about them, but who’s to say I care? These responses may be an excuse in lieu of judgment, but a justification to whomever is giving them.
Someone could say to me, “I’m an accountant, but it’s not as boring as it sounds.” Did I say it was boring? No. That’s been concluded from the general public’s main verdict and your own negative connotation of your work life. If you don’t find your job boring, own it. A person would much rather you say, “I’m an accountant and I love it,” than trying to defend yourself from a preconception made by those who may not have a clue what you really do all day. We are always much more inclined to ‘network’ with a person when there is some sort of passion emanating from what they’re talking about. If there’s no passion, the conversation runs dry.
You may argue that this question, the “What do you do?” is silly and people shouldn’t focus on that when getting to know someone. My rebuttal will always be that the average person will spend over 100,000 hours at work in their lifetime, so I think it’s perfectly pertinent to want to know how a person is spending that time.
Maybe you love the brand you’re working for instead of the job itself, or maybe the people you work with are like family. That’s fine, focus on that instead. Let that passion come through in your words. But anyone that makes a justification and doesn’t follow it up with passion in my eyes isn’t happy and isn’t trying to make themself happy. Your justification goes deeper than your rehearsed answer to the most common icebreaker in conversational history.
These justifications indicate fear. Fear for owning up to what your job is, being scared to admit that despite everyone’s preconceptions you actually like your role, or terrified to admit to yourself that actually, you hate it, and you want to do something else but you’re too afraid to take that leap.
Why shouldn’t you not only say what your job is without a justification but say it with gusto and pride? In this fast-paced, digital world there is no excuse for your job not to define you.
You can buy online courses for next to nothing, libraries and night school still exist and there are free platforms to host a multitude of side hustles. If you have an inkling of what you want to do, start learning. As the interest builds, so will your passion and the knowledge will follow. If you’re worried about starting from the bottom or pigeon holing or taking a pay cut, this research and interest in trying to discover what you want to do will shine through to whoever is making you prove yourself.
If you just have a job to pay the bills, or you don’t really know what you want to do and aren’t about to find out, maybe those are excuses, maybe you don’t have another option, maybe they’re necessary.
But the biggest (and most underrated) blessing for a large chunk of millennials is choice. We have the choice, maybe more than any generation before us, to design our lives exactly the way we want to.
Come at it in your own time, you can keep justifying your job to yourself until you feel ready and that time will come, but don’t restrain it. Own your feelings.
So now let me ask you, does your job define you?