You Are Not Your Job: A Reminder To Reclaim Your Life


In American culture, identity is inextricably tied to your job and career. According to a recent survey, about four-in-ten workers (who are not self-employed) say their job or career is extremely or very important to their overall identity.

Workers with a postgraduate degree are the most likely to see their job or career as central to their overall identity.

What’s more, many highly educated workers in the white-collar economy feel that their job cannot be “just a job” and that their career cannot be “just a career”.

Their job must be their “calling” and anything short of finding one’s vocational soulmate amounts to a wasted life. In an era of diminishing attachments, career and work sometimes seem like the last truly universal virtues.

In another survey, roughly half of Americans said that the most important part of a fulfilling life is work that provides joy and meaning. Less than a third said the same about being in a committed relationship or having children…

Bombarded with messaging

The credo that work should be the centerpiece of one’s identity quietly governs modern life. It’s almost impossible not to be bombarded with this notion that paid work is necessary to succeed as a person, whether it’s coming from political messaging, popular culture, or your community.

Researchers and psychologists point to three pillars of messaging in American culture that hugely shape this thinking: a Protestant work ethic (that being a hard worker is a sign of one’s value as a human), the emphasis on individualism (every person is a master of their fate), and what gives one status (money).

For those not born into wealth or connections, work is the way to get money — and, with it, status.

Obviously, there’s nothing inherently wrong with working hard, being self-reliant, or striving to achieve status. And the intensity with which Americans are attached to work is not just about cultural messaging that says work is what makes you respectable and worthy.

So many people get their health insurance from their employers, as well as their retirement plan and many other crucial benefits. Also for people whose legal identities are tied to their workplaces, their job is literally everything to them.

Doing work you love is not a bad thing, nor is considering what you do for a living an important part of who you are. The problem with connecting work and worth is that it can turn a career hurdle into something considerably tougher to overcome.

Crafting meaning in your work

Inevitably something will happen – there will be lay-offs, a recession, your company will be acquired, and suddenly your job isn’t what it used to be. It can become really existential for people. It can be a blow to your understanding of who you are in the world and why you matter.

Basing your life’s meaning on your work is not the same as crafting meaning in your work. You can enjoy purpose-fuelled work without losing yourself in the process.

To attain a healthy or well-rounded identity, you must establish balance in your work and in your personal life. By setting limits and looking after yourself, you can achieve the work-life balance that’s best for you.

For some this will mean prioritizing flexibility––seeking out companies with hybrid-work models or remote-work arrangements. Or looking for employers who foster an environment of empathy and recognition, and offer access to wellness and health resources.

Even more valuable are those organizations who mandate paid time off and whose leaders model the culture they want to create in their companies.

A dream job––that is, a job you love––is not necessary in order for you to have a dream life. A good job that is satisfying and meets your needs is a good thing, and can give you a great life.

If you’re interested in finding a job that fits, it’s time to check out opportunities with companies who can demonstrate a committed dedication to work/life balance. Your first stop? Head for The Hill Jobs Board to browse hundreds of jobs right now. Here are three hiring this week…

American Red Cross is seeking a Program Specialist, Disaster Services to support its Huntington WV region. The successful hire will provide functional support to Disaster Program Manager and Leadership at a regional level as well as develop, guide, and support teams of trained volunteers and implement and develop initiatives to increase Red Cross visibility. As a mission-based organization, the Red Cross believes its team needs great support to do great work, which is reflected in comprehensive benefits including health plans, PTO, retirement contributions, family leave and employee assistance.

Bread for the World is looking to recruit a Deputy Director of Government Relations to assist in providing departmental leadership and organizational leadership on domestic or international issues affecting people experiencing hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad, by developing and implementing policy and legislative strategy. The ideal candidate will have a Bachelor’s degree in public policy or related areas. Eight years’ of Hill or lobbying experience, as well as staff supervisory and management experience, is required. Worth noting is the stated mission is to provide an equitable work environment for everyone. The company also offers an attractive hybrid work model.

The Joint Commission has an open position for an Associate Director, Public Policy who will assist the DC Office leadership to advance The Joint Commission’s government relations agenda. The ideal candidate will possess a Master’s degree in public health, public policy, government, health care administration, or law degree or a related field. They must have at least seven years’ experience with increasing responsibility in a Congressional office, Federal Agency, and/or government relations experience. The Joint Commission offers a hybrid work option as standard.

For hundreds more opportunities and to find a role that fits, visit The Hill Jobs Board today

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