You are not your job title. Your job does not define you. You are more than an 8-to-5.
How often do we hear these words? And agree with them? Yet, how much do we actually believe them to be true?
I have always subscribed to the idea that I was not defined by my job, partly due to my unhappiness within whatever job I had at the time. I could distance myself from the job by saying it “wasn’t me” and that I was “so much more than just an employee.”
The problem, however, was that my solution always consisted of finding another job. Because I felt like the job I had did not define me, I thought replacing one job with a different one would give me purpose, value and worth. I thought if only I could find a job with a better description and duties, then maybe it could finally show who I was.
After some financial instability in the company I worked with, I found myself without a job last year. If a job doesn’t define you, then being without a job shouldn’t define you either. Right?
Before long, I could not escape the realization of just how much weight I had put into my job in terms of purpose and definition. Suddenly, in my mind, I was now “the girl without a job.” I hardly knew how to answer the clerk at the grocery store when asked how my day was. All I could think was, “I don’t have a job. My day has not amounted to anything.”
In order to prevent joblessness from defining me, I approached it the same way I did when I wanted to stop a job from defining me—by finding another job as fast as possible. Only this time, that didn’t work. I applied and interviewed and had jobs practically dangling in front of my face before the hiring manager “decided to move forward with another candidate.” I questioned and doubted every skill I ever had while scrambling to find something to satisfy my longings to be needed at a job. I could not escape feeling unworthy and unwanted.
Here’s the thing: If you aren’t going to let your job define you, you have to have a solid identity apart from your job title. You have to be or do something other than your job. You can’t just look for a job that sounds like it could be a good identity to take on, you have to look for a job that fits into who you already uniquely are apart from your career.
Your job should not be your everything. We are all children of God who have a purpose and a meaning on this earth. That is our core identity, and it will never change, no matter our job description.
That said, our work, whatever it may be, is still an important component in life, as we were created to create and to use our gifts. Romans 12:6 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” Beyond just working to pay bills, we often feel more fulfilled when we are doing the type of work we love.
Without a job, all I did was search for one, which meant that my measure of worth and abilities was still dependent on getting approval from a job. But you don’t need a job in order to do something or to use your talents. I have friends developing apps, creating art and building communities. No one is paying them. Maybe one day they will get something in return, but for now, they are doing it because that is what they feel called to do.
You have strengths and abilities, so use them regardless of your job description. Ask yourself what you feel gifted to do. Then go do it, even if you’re not getting paid to do it. Maybe one day it will turn into a paycheck and maybe it won’t. In the end, you are still doing what you were called to do with your life.
In doing the things you love, remember that it takes time. There may be a huge learning curve or obstacles in your way. Sure, you may still need to work another job while you are doing those things that you love. We all have bills to pay and other responsibilities that need to be attended to. But remember what it is that you have been called to do—what interests, artistry and aptitudes you were entrusted with—and invest your time wisely in those areas.
I was spending so much time looking for a job that allowed me to write, plan events and manage projects, but I was not doing any of those things on my own. It was as if I was waiting for someone to say, “OK, you can do the things you love now because the business cards we gave you says you do that.”
That is not how it actually works. Maybe your business card says what you are paid to do, but it does not define you or give you exclusive rights to do something. I finally realized that if I want part of my identity to be “writer,” I should write. So, I wrote without inhibition on my blog. I planned an event at my church. I managed projects for friends.
In the end, our identity is so much richer than just what we do for eight hours a day. We all have significant relationships, things we’re passionate about and unique personality traits that can’t be encompassed by a job. More than that, whether we’re picking up garbage or sitting in a cubicle, our identity is found in Christ.
Samantha Gratton is a writer, dreamer, believer and advocate living in Raleigh, NC. She blogs at movingpeaces.com, plays music with her husband and eats something chocolate every day.