Are We Defined by Our Job?
Each Tuesday and Wednesday evening I take a Boxing class at my gym. The same core members attend the classes each week and through sixty minutes of sweating and basically looking the worst you could look we have become a close circle of friends.
Through conversation with one of the ladies, the topic of work came up. I had just recently lost my job and I was still sensitive to the dreaded question, “What do you do?”I quickly averted her eyes and muttered: ” I was let go from my job last week.” Her eyes went directly to her pink Nike sneakers and the silence became deafening. She said, “I am so sorry”. No eye contact. Her sneakers were getting all the attention.
Then just as quickly as the conversation started it ended. Head down she slid her hands inside the pink boxing gloves she was holding, fastened the Velcro strap around her wrists and walked to the center of the gymnasium where the rest of the class was gathered.
When I drove out of the parking garage 45 minutes later, I started to think back to how my fellow classmate reacted once hearing that I was unemployed. The question that came to mind as I turned on to the on ramp to Interstate 277 heading away from the city is “Are we defined by our Job?
Does Failure Make Us Doubt Who We Are?
I am 48 years old and have been in the hospitality industry for over 16+ years. Since I first entered the workforce at 16 at the local Burger King in my hometown, I have been terminated three times. This could make some people take a look at themselves and wonder what is wrong. They might even start to doubt everything they have done up to that point and begin to doubt themselves I will not lie. I hated my first job. Burger King was not the career choice I saw myself in the next 50 years of my life. But with anyone’s first job you learn how to work with other people and how businesses operate. Good or bad.
Termination is not the end of an individual’s development. It is a step to finding who you are and who and what you can become. I am a half glass full kind of guy. One would think after being terminated three times that giving up would be the best solution. I ask myself “What could I have done differently?” and most importantly “What can I learn from this so I can apply that to my next opportunity?”
The bottom line is we have to work. I worked a 50 hour work week and I was not happy what I was doing. I loved my employees and the guests that I came to know over the five years I was the manager. But if you asked if I loved my job. The answer would be “NO”.
What Age Do We Know Who We Are?
Growing up we all had to stand in front our class and do a presentation on “what I want to be when I grow up”. I always smile to myself when I overhear a teacher or parent ask that question. How many are doing what we “hoped” to be doing back in fourth grade? Life gets in the way we get married, have children, purchase a home and with it 30 years of paying a mortgage, and the necessary evil of having the monthly car payment. But why don’t we do what we love?
I always wanted to be a writer. Journalist, novelist, screenwriter, etc. I spent four years undergraduate and two years graduate pursuing that “hope”. I worked in both television and radio for several years and enjoyed it, no I loved it, but then life stepped in and another path presented itself to me and that is how I began my career in the hospitality field. It was a wonderful experience and because of that opportunity, I obtained both business and management skills I can apply to any position moving forward in the pursuit of the job that I will enjoy doing.
Being unemployed personally has been a wake-up call for me. I realized how little time we have on this earth and that thought frightened me. I have done some extensive soul-searching and discovered that there is a lot out there and it has opened my eyes to so many possibilities. Most importantly I am reading everything I can, learning everything about the career I want to pursue, and taking the first scary step towards that career goal.
So ” Are we Defined by Our Job? I hope so. Why work a job that we loathe getting out of bed for? This should not be our legacy. Find out what “defines” you and then pursue it.