Your Job is NOT as Important as You Think

from the archives

When we first meet someone and we begin the usual obligatory chit chat, we inevitably ask the question, “So, what do you do?”

And they give the expected answer. They state what they do for a living and talk briefly about their job or their career.

I have always found this to be such a depressing exchange. Sure, it’s just chit chat. You are talking with a stranger. It just seems to me that what people should be asking, and perhaps some of them are trying to ask is instead, “Who are you?”

To which we respond with…

A teacher. A business man. A homemaker. A student. An accountant. Those are our jobs or our careers. They do not and should not make up the whole of who we are.

When I meet someone for the first time, I want people to tell me why they do what they do, what it means to them, what is important in their lives, what they prioritize, and what they value.

Granted, I don’t think if Joe Schmoe walked up to me at a BBQ and said, “So, tell me…who are you? What is your life all about?” that I’d be too enthusiastic to answer. However, the point I’m making is this: Would we be put off if someone did just that? And better yet, would we answer them honestly?

The question is: does our identity stem from our jobs, positions, and titles, or does it come from knowing ourselves in relation to Christ? And are we willing to be vulnerable and transparent about our lives?

Being a stay-at-home mom, I can easily fall victim to thinking my identity is tied to what I do all day long. I feel some days like I am only a mom and that’s all I’ll ever be. I’m a cook, and a maid, and a servant. That’s it. It is so easy to let my identity slip into “the things I do” instead of who the Lord has made me to be and, ultimately, destined me to become.

Instead of feeling like an “only,” I have to remind myself that I am an “every.” I am everything God calls me: beloved, forgiven, righteous, redeemed, victorious, a warrior, a saint, holy, and adopted.

I am, of course, not alone in this. People often hide behind their careers seeking anonymity and safety. A stranger who looks like a confident corporate executive may in fact be a lonely, hurting, and fearful man underneath. It is a lot easier for someone to introduce themselves as the person they want to appear to be than the person they actually are.

But what if we took the time to find out that Mr. Corporate America just suffered through a divorce, or is chronically ill, or is foreclosing on his house? What if we didn’t settle for the standard answer of “I’m in business” and instead spent time asking people about their lives? What kind of impact would we have?

If we began to treat people not as cardboard cutouts but as individuals created in God’s image, we would see lives transformed. People crave intimacy, all people. A conversation with a stranger or acquaintance is not an intimate exchange. It is usually trite, shallow, and awkward. But it doesn’t have to be.

Next time someone asks what you do, consider more fully answering that question. Tell them about your life. And ask them about theirs.

What would your business card say if it didn’t list your company, position or title? Why are we more apt to share about our “jobs” than about ourselves?

19 thoughts on “Your Job is NOT as Important as You Think”

  1. Excellent post. American culture places such a heavy emphasis an individual’s work that it can be difficult to remember that there’s so much more that defines us. The emphasis on the connection between one’s work and one’s identity can definitely lead to a strong work ethic, but it can also lead to some real negatives that don’t always show up in economists’ measurements of GDP.

    “In Christ Alone…”

    1. Ben,
      I agree. While a strong work ethic is nothing to scoff at, especially since God designed us to work, there is something quite different between working to perform or be “successful” and working unto the Lord.

      You are right–the negatives show up in different and often harmful ways.

  2. I think that’s part of an ideology imposed from above (not Heaven, but the upper class). We are educated to think about ourselves primarily as workers, rather than as persons. Work is good. Your work is appreciated and important. Do your job and be good at it. Hold two jobs. Or three.

    Universities claim to get people “ready and competitive to step into the job market”, not to form educated, whole human beings. Highly specialized, narrow education, just enough to keep the machines clean and running.

    Then, we are bribed with gadgets, Nike sneakers and other sorts of shiny objects to keep us busy and entertained when we get home. Watch the game. Listen some music. Write comments in blogs (hehe, yeah, I’m part of it, I don’t deny it). Go to sleep. Then, go to work again. Get home. Watch Tv. Sleep. Work. Don’t ever demonstrate. Don’t riot. Don’t overthrow this regime that takes your soul away to turn it into more money for me.

    And we agree, because we have accepted it’s simply how things are. It applies not only to construction workers and the guy who works at the laundromat, but to engineers and executives as well. Those guys just get more expensive shiny objects, while middle class workers get cheaper ones, that’s all.

    It’s all about class struggle.

    That’s why I’m so happy about what’s happening in Egypt right now.

    1. Your comment could be a whole ‘nother post. I agree with much of what you wrote.

      I do think on a smaller scale, that identifying ourselves with our jobs (especially in America) is a way to insulate ourselves from real relationship and intimacy.

      We rarely identify with others based on passions, values, morals, faith, etc. Instead it is “what we do.”

      I especially agree with you about universities only producing “educated, not whole human beings.” I have major issue with colleges for that very reasons. They are, in my opinion, dumb factories, producing brain-washed, indoctrinated people who cannot think for themselves.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

  3. All I know is that one of the reasons I left my last position is that I didn’t have time to be myself. For me, this included prayer and devotional time.

  4. I love this Nicole! You’ve so hit the nail on the head. Setting aside all other reasons for asking someone about their life and themself, it gets boring asking/answering the same questions over and over again! Freshers week at university each year, getting to know the new freshers becomes a neverending stream of:
    What’s your name?
    What are you studying?
    What halls are you in? (Ooh Lancaster, those are the swanky halls, lucky you!)

    I love the idea of “What would your business card say if it didn’t list your company, position or title?” A big question… My answer would probably be:
    Rachel. I love to design, I love to fix things, I love deep & meaningfuls, I love cars, I love music and I love Jesus.

    1. Rachel,
      I attended college in Boston, which has 50 colleges in 50 square miles, so I completely empathize with the barrage of “Freshers questions” (so cute by the way–“freshers” we just call them freshmen)

      Great business card too by the way!

  5. Just found your blog today :) Love this post…been thinking about these very things lately. I’ve always wanted to have a job I absolutely LOVE…BUT now that I think about it…it really doesn’t matter cause my identity will NEVER lie in my job. It’s actually not as important as I deem it to be.

    1. Charissa,

      I’m glad to meet you! You said it so well! When we know Christ, our identity can never lie in what we do, but rather who we belong to. It is nice to have a job we love, but better to have a purpose and a hope.

      Hope to see more of you around here. Thanks for commenting!

  6. I have been blessed to have a few people in my life that when we greet we shake hands and ask “How are you?”. The deal is… brutal, 100% honesty. No sugar coating. It’s scary and incredibly refreshing at the same time. But there needs to be an established friendship for this to work.

  7. I think we share our jobs because they are a little more concrete and easy to cope with. They have a beginning and an end. We have an exit point if we need to bail out. I was a Master Jeweler for years and loved the ooo’s and ahh’s I got, the validation. Now, I’m a missionary and I get the ooo’s and ahh’s again but then they say “but what do you do all day.” Then I stumble around trying to tell them how hanging out with people really does bring them closer to Jesus. How projecting a sports event or playing a video game makes disciples. Sheesh, forget it. I’m a HVAC technician. Easier.

    1. Ken, I absolutely love this (and all your) response(s). Keep doing what you’re doing. When people ask what it is you do all day, tell them: “I just do what the Boss tells me. I’ll find out what He produces out of it later.” Done and done.

      1. Thanks Jonathon. That ingrained North American mentality gets at us sometimes. My wife and I feel like we need to “do” more tangible things to report more “cattle” but we fight it. You’re right, I may or may not find out later what He does with it but I have to follow His lead.

  8. Love this, Nicole! I’ve thought about this topic so many times. Like you, I am a SAHM, but I’m SO much more that. It makes me so sad to see other women who’ve lost their identity in “just” being mom. We are created for so much more than the actions, yet the actions are so vital to who we are. If only these women would see how their individuality and passions are purposeful to God’s glory and to raising children to be the special individuals God created them to be.
    I love this post. :)

  9. I needed this post today, Nicole. I’ve been struggling lately at work, experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety due to the workload. I finally had to ask myself what the source of that anxiety was. The truth is, I was afraid of letting people down, or looking like a failure, or appearing to be a slacker. I need to arm myself with the word of God and know and believe my identity in Christ. Then, I’m able to do what I can in a day, working unto the Lord, and not spend the rest of the day and night anxious about what I still haven’t done. I am not defined by my job, I’m defined by who I am in Christ. Thank you for the reminder.

  10. Au contraire, your job can say a lot about you. Things like passions, values, morals, faith, etc are usually factors when it comes to picking a job. Say I wanna be a doctor – as a Christian, that means that (hopefully) God led me to make that decision, and since its what I’ll be doing many, many hours out of the day, and where I will meet most of the people I know, I’d think it’s a VERY important part of who I am.
    True, it’s not the only thing that defines me, but it is part of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *