What do you do for a living?
What is the first thing that people ask you when they meet you? What do you do for a living? I’m a teacher. I’m a plumber. I’m a businesswoman. Electrician. Engineer. I work in retail. Garbage collector.
And of course, we have the slash job descriptions. I’m a writer/actor/waiter. I’m a musician/teacher/ entrepreneur/Uber driver.
People ask you what you do for a living. And people enjoy describing what they do. You may be a teacher, pilot, sales clerk, street cleaner, writer, lawyer, or one of many other professions or jobs. People take pride in their work and work hard at their jobs. That is great. Everyone should do their best, provide society a benefit, and do an honest day’s work.
You are not your job
Unfortunately, many people judge others by their professions. They make the wrong assumption that a teacher, lawyer, or other profession must be better than an auto mechanic, street cleaner, sales clerk. That is wrong. Your job is just how you make a living, a way for you to pay the bills. It has nothing to do with your worth as a person. It has nothing to do with your intelligence.
Who's the genius?
My dad taught me to never look down at someone who works with his or her hands. He would say that when you pay a mechanic $500 to fix your car, who’s the genius? The mechanic is $500 richer and you are $500 poorer. Your job does not define who you are as a person.
Your job does not define your intelligence. A college education does not necessarily mean that that person is intelligent. Some people do not have the finances to attend college. Others learn from experience, from apprenticeships, and from life. You do not need a college education to learn or considered intelligent.
Life does not follow a straight, defined path.
Your job does not always define what you studied at school. You may have studied computer science and found your calling as a sales person. You may have studied accounting but decided to make a career from your love of cooking. Life does not follow a straight, defined path. You may love what you studied but realized that you do not love making a living doing that. Or, your love and passion of that discipline is greater than your skill.
There are many reasons why a person chooses a job. They enjoy it. They are good at it. They just fell into it. They needed a job, were not planning to stay in that job but found out that they enjoyed that type of work.
Are you happy?
When I meet someone I often ask if they are happy. I’m interested in their profession but I am more interested if they are happy in life. If they are happy, they will most likely be a pleasant person and fun to be with. They are someone I will consider doing business with.
If they are not happy with their job, they may not be the best person to do business with.
What you do with your life is more important than what you do for a living.
You are not your job. Do not define yourself by your job. You are a person who provides value. You are a mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, husband, wife, sister, brother, and so on. What you do with your life is more important than what you do for a living. What you do with the money you have is more important than how much money you earn. Your character is more important than your job title.
Do not let your job description define what you do. Your job may be in business but your true talent is in the field of photography. Your love of photography may not pay the bills, but that does not mean you should not pursue your photographic talents in your spare time. You can make your living in business but still consider yourself a photographer.
Nobody pays you to do a job that is worthless
Be proud of the work that you do. Take pride in that work and do your best. My dad taught me that nobody pays you to do a job that is worthless. You may not like doing that work or some people may think that the job is beneath them. However, the work has value. Why would someone pay you to do something that was useless? People want to live in clean neighborhoods. We need garbage collectors and street cleaners. People want safe neighborhoods. We need police officers. People want quality schools. We need teachers, administrators, and janitors.
Don’t judge a person by the work they do. Judge them by the person that they are.
Alan Cohen (author) on August 11, 2020:
Congrats. I've had a few careers. Everyone is replaceable. There's an old saying that goes something like this, "Don't kill yourself for your job. You;ll be replaced before you are buried." As my rabbi tells me, "Your job just defines how you make a living." It's true. Everyone is more than their job.
Mariah Bruce from Portland, OR on August 10, 2020:
Loved this article. I recently decided to quit my career and go back to school because my career was too demanding and consuming my life. I think it's important to know who we are outside of careers or financial success. I often struggle with feeling "replaceable" at my job, but having hobbies I enjoy and support from a social circle helps me like I am valid and important.
Thank you for sharing your perspective on this issue!