Most of us have had a time in our lives when we meet someone new and that dreaded question rears its ugly head.
“So what do you do?”
Those words can have a crippling effect on our social interactions, to the point where we can even lie and deceive for fear of being judged on how we make a living.
Have you ever seen an old school friend and purposely changed direction just so you don’t have to engage in small talk
“Hey how are you? I haven’t seen you in years”
“Yeh I know, it’s crazy. I’m good, how are you?”
“Yeh can’t complain, so what do you do now?”
10 seconds is all it took. 10 seconds to take a seemingly pleasant conversation and turn it into a very uncomfortable moment. The fear of being judged by someone we hardly know and maybe a reminder of how our life isn’t panning out the way we had originally hoped.
A brief reflection
It’s easy to believe that there is a stigma associated with minimum wage employment, especially when we hold these positions later in life. It wasn’t so bad when I was younger and everyone was fresh out of college and about to embark on the big bad world. The problem arose when the years started to pass and I was still slaving away for the soulless corporations that would eventually kill any desire I had for regular ‘proper’ employment.
There are only so many shelves that one can fill and only so many orders that one can receive before insanity sets it. Minimum wage jobs are often thankless jobs too. Every day is Groundhog Day and everything that you did the day before has been reset as if it never existed.
When you live this existence and you allow this world to become part of who you are, of course it is easy to become beaten down with life. I remember starting one such job back in my early twenties and I actually enjoyed telling people that I now had a full time job and decent regular income, well for a 21 year old anyway. This never became a problem until I changed jobs at the age of 25, but instead of moving up in the world, I merely moved sideways into a similar company.
Actually apart from a brief 6 months stint working on Bournemouth beach, I stayed in retail until the age of 31 and a time where most of my peers were doing something that society would seem befitting of someone my age.
To be honest I grew sick of telling people what I did for a living. I hated their fake approval, “oh well that’s cool”, and the body language that betrayed their ‘sincerity’. It wasn’t so much their approval that I was trying to seek, but every time I would tell someone where I worked, it was a timely reminder of how I wasn’t doing what I truly wanted.
I always believed that what we do for a career doesn’t define who we are inside. Yet social stigma will always exist to a certain degree. Now I know that a little paranoia was responsible here and that most people probably didn’t really give a damn, but I have no doubt that social status exists and we judge people based on this, even if it’s subconsciously.
This is where we imagine other people’s opinions and base our own on what we believe they think about us.
I don’t need to tell you that this is unhealthy.
How can we learn to detach ourselves from what we do?
Do not allow your job to get you down, no matter what it is you do and regardless of how bad your days are. Many famous and successful people worked in jobs they hated before they eventually moved on to a more successful career. It is in these types of jobs where your passion and your grit and determination are formed. It is a test of character and life rewards those who pull through and manage to escape the grind in favour of following their goals.
The next time someone asks you what it is that you do. Answer them with honesty and with your head held high. If your tone of voice and your body language shows that you are comfortable with what you are saying, it will carry more weight. For it isn’t really what you say that makes the difference, it’s what lies behind it that matters.
If you were a successful author but when it came to explain what you did to others, you did so without confidence and portrayed that you were ashamed, then yes it will come across like you have something to hide. Likewise if you told people you were a door to door cheese salesman, but said it with utmost confidence and conviction, then people would probably think you were happy with what you did and that it was kinda awesome.
The point is, don’t attach yourself to what you do for a living and don’t let it define you as a person. The chances are it is only temporary and in the future you will be doing what you have always wanted, so focus on that and treat your current job exactly for what it is, a simple way of paying the bills while you work towards your future goals.
The opinions of others are worthless. It is what you feel that counts and never let the fear of what someone else may think affect who you are and how you live your life.
You are NOT your job. You are far more awesome than that and you know it.
Well said Jamie! Bottom line, one has to love what he does. At the least, love it for being your bread and butter! It was fortunate for me not to have ‘hated’ my previous jobs but rather I hated the situations like having to work late and get his and that pressure.
It’s so easy to say ‘find a job that you love’. But easier said than done. I think at some point one also has to contend with learning how to love what you do.
Ultimately, we have to follow our passion in one way or another…
Rob Leonardo recently posted..5 Rootcauses of Procrastination and Their Solutions
Well said. Sometimes it’s not just the job activity itself that we hate, it’s the conditions we have to work in.
Jamie: hey! This is my first time to your site I believe and I really enjoyed your post! It is hard to always ignore society and what they think about us, but we should have that I do not care what anyone thinks about me mentality because it truely does not matter what others think about us, but only what we think of ourselves. I know the feeling of running from that dreaded question ‘what do you do for a living question’ or for me ‘are you in school’? I think a part of why my parents want me in school is so that when they are asked the question of whether I am or not they will not feel ashamed to answer honestly. When I was in school and was asked that question, I used to answer it with conviction! “Why yessssss, I am in school, blah, blah, blah” it took me awhile to get that same conviction in me, but even though I am not in school anymore, I try to have that same confidence in my answer. I just want people to know that I might not take the path most traveled, but I am going to take the path I believe is right for me, you know?
William Veasley recently posted..The Pursuit of Happiness
I totally agree. You always have to follow the path that you feel is right for you. Usually when we don’t have that conviction it’s because something isn’t right.
i had that problem when i used to work at a call center
the job used to take 12 hours a day and i didn’t manage to detach myself from it for a long time
farouk recently posted..Why do people believe in superstitions
Thanks a lot. I admire anyone who can work in a call centre. Truly a test of character!
Hey Jamie! Your post really rang a few bells for me. I too climbed the ladder until about age 32, then, came tumbling back down. Whilst everyone around me went onward & upward (the “normal” path), I found myself doing the things I would have previously told others to “wake up” and walked away shaking my head in disbelief… It can’t be that hard to just get another job/ a better job… or can it?? All it took was a company collapse, endless applications and interviews to find I was overqualified for most jobs or needed to be more qualified to make a sandwich or clean a toilet. I got to the point where I would have gladly done anything, just to say to others “I’m ok, I have a job”. I’m now working minimum wage and have learnt more about life, people and perspective than ever. I think I may actually find the meaning of happiness somewhere in this…..
Hi Greg, just keep doing what makes you happy and you can never go wrong!