Your Job Doesn’t Define You

I read a very interesting post over the weekend at Get Rich Slowly. It was a guy writing about how he switched from a job he was passionate about for a “boring” job. It turns out the job he was passionate about was so stressful that he was suffering from a severe case of burnout. He enjoyed the work but not everything else that came with it. So he switched to a 9-5 job that has a lot less stress and pays just as much (if not more). He doesn’t “love” this new job, but overall he is happier with the way things are now.

It got me thinking a little bit about career choices in general. I hear and read advice to high school and college students all the time telling them to pursue their passion… that the only way to be happy with life is to be doing something you love for a living. I can certainly see both sides to this. On the one hand, I can see that life could get pretty mundane if you go in every day to a job that you absolutely hate. On the other hand, if you’re in a low-paying job that you really love the, then the stress of struggling to make ends meet can be just as bad.

My Experience
My senior year in high school, I decided I was going to college to become a high school social studies teacher. I always enjoyed the subject and thought teaching was a very respectable profession. I still think that, though our educational system definitely needs some work. Anyway, when the time came to register for classes at college I decided that teaching wasn’t a very profitable career (financially), and I decided to go for computer science (since I was also somewhat of a computer geek). I enjoyed working with computers, and the career research said you could make a decent living in a computer-related job.

After one year of computer programming class in college, I knew it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle the work… it was just so boring (to me). So, I picked something else. I thought over what I wanted to do when I graduated. There were several majors that I knew I would enjoy, such as history and sociology. But when I thought about job prospects, I had no idea what I would do with a degree in those fields. One of my friends was majoring in accounting and said the job prospects were really good in that field. I enjoyed business and was pretty good at math, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Three years later I graduated with B.A. in accounting near the top of my class. I didn’t have any trouble at all finding a job with decent pay and reasonable hours. I’m happy with it. Do I “love” my job? I don’t know that I’d go that far.

Your Job Does Not Define You
My point is that what you do for a living does not define who you are as a person. When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions that come up is “What do you do?” How should I answer that question? Typically, I would say that I’m an accountant. But I could just as easily say that I’m a father helping to raise an amazing baby boy, a man trying to be a better husband, or that I’m a blogger trying to help people achieve their financial goals.

I know that what people mean by the question is “What do you do for a living,” but why does that even matter? You can be happy with your life without working a job that you are “passionate” about.
– You can be passionate about kids without working in childcare, social work, or education. Instead, you can work at a factory and do volunteer work at a community center or school.
– You can be passionate about animals without working at a veterinary clinic. Instead, you can have your day job and volunteer at a local shelter.
– You can be passionate about music without signing with a record label. Instead, you can work your day job and sing/play side gigs.

Now, if you’re able to get a job in a field you’re passionate about, that’s great. But what I’m saying is that’s not the only way to be satisfied with your work. You can have a “boring” job and still follow your passions.