My friend ‘John’ left the corporate world to pursue his life-long dream of traveling around the world for a year. Fresh off his trip, we recently met up for tea to catch up. In his early 40s, John spent his 20s as a consultant, often working overtime and forgoing vacation. Most of his 30s were spent furthering his career because that was what everyone else was doing. He wasn’t happy. He had dreams of traveling the world and not being tied down to an office job. When the opportunity came to him to pursue his dream in his late 30s, he had to make a decision. Would he stay put in the 9 to 5 lifestyle with a great salary and benefits, or take a leap of faith to embark on a new chapter in life? He leaped and hadn’t looked back.
Suffice to say, he returned with a different perspective. Climbing the corporate ladder didn’t matter anymore. He no longer was obsessed with obtaining certain job titles and positions. To sum up his thoughts, it was, “been there, done that.” Instead, he wanted to pursue his life goals and didn’t want to be defined by a job title. Then it got me thinking, what defines me? How do I respond when someone asks what I do? Almost instinctively, I’ll usually give an answer like the following:
I’m a [insert job title] at [insert company] where I manage [insert job function details].
I’m not the only one who does this. When I meet people for the first time and ask what they do, I’ll get answers like, “I’m a Director at Company X.” People tend to title drop, and let’s be honest, not only does it sound generic, but it also doesn’t reveal much about that person.
Furthermore, I doubt telling others what I do at work receives any genuine interest. I can’t envision someone saying, “You work in an office? That is so interesting, please tell me more!” Instead, their eyes start to glaze over and they end up in a state short of a coma.
I don’t hate or love my job, but I enjoy it. Working and interacting with my colleagues is something I look forward to. I get to manage the work as I see fit, as the position aligns with my personality and work methodology. However, my job just one small facet of who I am. If someone asks what I do, I should be telling others that I work at an office job but I also spend a large portion of my time devoted to writing, photography, and the culinary arts. That’s a more accurate description of what I do, of what defines me. It sure sounds much better than, “I work in an office, blah blah blah,” and it may inspire more fruitful conversation with others, and who knows, maybe you’ll find out that you share common interests. The way I look at it is, my day job provides me the financial stability to invest in the hobbies that make me happy. However, I still need to perform well at work so that I can keep enjoying said things.
As for John, I no longer identified him as an information security professional who works at Company X, but as an experienced traveler with a penchant for adventure and the unknown.
So, what do you do?