We’re always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. Doctor? Lawyer? Anchor on the evening news? There were a lot of different paths suggested to me when I was little. (Except from my grandpa. I mean, he believed in me, of course, but he was fairly certain that women were still only allowed to be nurses or teachers.) Anyway, the message is – your chosen profession is a central part of your identity, so pick a good one. But you know what makes that so dangerous? If you lose your job, you lose your value. And that, my friends, is a modern falsehood that must be debunked. YOU are NOT your JOB.
Your job doesn’t have to be your reason for living. Your job is a way to support the life you want to lead. There’s a strange sense of freedom when you stop pondering the existential meaning of your work and focus on enjoying what truly makes your life meaningful. If your job doesn’t define you, you make room for your passions, your service work, and your family to be the defining parts of your life. And those things don’t disappear with a lay off, cross-country move, or retirement.
Everyone always thinks there is another job just around that corner that will fulfill their every dream and ambition. But let’s face it, every job is going to have elements you don’t enjoy. It might be a certain task you despise, maybe you have no benefits, or maybe the person in the next cubicle always smells like pickles. Whatever it is, it’s proof the perfect job doesn’t exist. And rather than drive yourself crazy combing through careerbuilder.com for a job description that reads “get paid to do whatever you want,” there comes a point when it’s wise to settle. Settling doesn’t mean you give up and accept a crappy job. Not at all. It simply means you allow yourself to be content. (Note: My advice would be much different in regards to marriage. Don’t ever settle in that case.)
Here are some signs that you are “close enough” to that perfect job:
1. Your duties challenge you consistently, and otherwise give you something to do everyday.
2. Your employer pays you fairly, encourages you to continue learning, and supports your growth as a person.
3. You have a community of work people you enjoy seeing every day.
4. You have a few people you want to follow and some you want to lead.
5. You have the opportunity to try new things and, more importantly, the opportunity to make mistakes.
6. You get pats on the back for a job well done and, occasionally, donuts.
7. The schedule fits your current lifestyle well. You have the flexibility to spend time with your family and friends, take vacations, and otherwise experience life.
8. Your employer cares about you. This might be shown through an extensive benefits package, recognition from your boss, or a well-timed gift from the company, but you feel confident the powers that be know you exist and care about your well-being.
9. You are proud of where you work and its reputation in the community.
10. You are able to do your job and stay true to yourself. No job is worth compromising your morals, ethics, or values. If your job encourages you to maintain your core beliefs, you’re on the right track.
I’m going to try to stop asking people What do you do? But instead, Who are you? (Not literally. That would be a very strange question to ask people.) For instance, What do you do in your free time? Where are you from? What are your hobbies?
Work is one of many ways to connect with people, but our common ground is often not found in our jobs. It’s found in our love of chocolate, Game of Thrones, or Pinterest. Connections are made when we talk about our kids, our vacation mishaps, and our mutual acquaintances. What does your job really tell me about you? In my opinion, not as much as we think it should.