Do our jobs define us? Being a career girl in the 21st century

Do our jobs define us? Being a career girl in the 21st century

Another day, another conversation leading with, “so what is it you do?”. This is not my favourite question. The reason being that there’s never a succinct way for me to answer.

I get asked what I do a lot. Like, a lot a lot. Since relocating to Manchester my life is full of meeting new people, who quite reasonably enquire about my job as part of normal, polite conversation. All this explaining about myself has got me thinking: is my job the most important thing about me?

Do our jobs really define us these days?

Back in our parents’ and grandparents’ day, answering “what do you do?” was a much more straightforward task. You were a teacher, or a lorry driver, or a dentist, or a mechanic. Obviously people still do these jobs (a world without dentists! Imagine!) but so many of us millennials in 2017 don’t ‘fit’ a simple label. We’re ‘slashes’ – an actor slash bar tender or a blogger slash business coach; an artist slash graphic designer or even a freelance writer/ influencer marketing executive/ video journalist/ reporter/ blogger/ presenter… that’s me, by the way.

Flat lay relating to careers as blogger Twenty-Something City asks whether jobs define us in the 21st century

Recently I’ve been fond of the description ‘freelance content creator’, but always followed with the suffix “a bit wanky, I know”. That’s because I, like many other ‘slashes’ and creative types these days feel uncomfortable that we don’t fit into any clear-cut label, and we feel pretentious describing ourselves as some made-up sounding job. We shouldn’t feel that way.

One of the best things someone ever said to me is, “if you say you are something, then you are that thing” (OK I think they put it more eloquently than that but stay with me). If you run a blog then you are a blogger; if you’re trying to get graphic design work then you are a graphic designer. If you don’t take yourself seriously then why should anyone else?

So, back to the “what do you do?” conundrum. Another problem I have with this seemingly innocent question is the weightiness of it. It’s always the first thing we ask when we meet someone, never “what are your hobbies?” or “what are you passionate about?”. It seems daft that despite the fact most of us will try several careers on for size in our lifetime, our main focus when we meet someone new is their job.

Creative media camera flat lay as blogger Twenty-Something City explores whether our career defines us in the 21st century

I don’t ever want my work to define me. My career will have a part to play in who I am, certainly. But even if I had my dream job it would still never be the sum of who I am. This is something I am increasingly aware of as I become more immersed in the ‘adult world’ – I’ve met callous bosses who have doting children, and teachers who love getting shitfaced at a weekend (I’m naming no names).

Labels may help make the world a simpler place, but in 2017 they feel outdated and clunky. At the end of the day, we’re all ‘slashes’ in one form or another, right?


  1. November 16, 2017 / 12:18 pm

    I’m trying to design my business cards at the moment, well, I designed them a fair while ago, but I’m struggling to “label” myself – what is my job? what is it I do? Wellness and Life Coach? Blogger? Digital Comms? Poet? At the end of the day I have removed all of these from my cards, but labels define us and limit us – and each and every one of us is limitless in our ambitions and abilities xx

    • twentysomethinglifeandstyle
      November 16, 2017 / 12:35 pm

      I definitely feel your struggle when it comes to business cards! But yes, labels are both useful and unhelpful in 2017 I think xx

  2. November 16, 2017 / 3:27 pm

    Currently I am having a little career break since I submitted my PhD. Yet, I am a bit scared of that question “what do you?”. However, I am just trying to stick on being happy on whatever I do even if it is career break! xx

  3. November 16, 2017 / 6:24 pm

    It’s tough isn’t it? I think thinking about what we’re passionate about, are good at and enjoy help. It’s definitely the case that there are many different roles out there and it’s definitely portfolio careers now. It has been for me and I’m 50 now. love bec xx

    • twentysomethinglifeandstyle
      November 16, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      Thanks for reading! I think ‘portfolio careers’ is a good way to look at it 🙂 xx

  4. Michelle
    November 16, 2017 / 8:55 pm

    I totally agree. This was a refreshing read. I’m not alone! Lol

    • twentysomethinglifeandstyle
      November 16, 2017 / 9:50 pm

      I’m glad other people can relate! This career business is a weird one, isn’t it?!

      • Michelle
        November 19, 2017 / 8:19 pm

        It is EXTREMELY weird! I really respect you for opening up and saying something about the difficulty of it sometimes

  5. November 16, 2017 / 9:42 pm

    This is exactly the thought I had the other day! At a recent blogger event, people asked me “so are you a blogger?” my response was “kind of… I mean I wrote a blog a while back and now I’ve sort of re-launched one”… I’m still kicking myself at that answer! I think for me, it’s mainly a confidence thing and because I feel quite shy to address myself as that. Even though, if I think about it back before I even had a full-time job, blogging was my thing. Over the years I’ve dipped in and out of it and had full-time positions as a marketing and communications professional – but it seems to be the one area of my life I have trouble defining. I quite like the idea of describing myself as a content creator as it fits in with my day job and my evening/weekend hobby as a blogger. Maybe I’ll go down that route – but thank you for getting me thinking! And sorry about possibly the longest comment. Ever! 🙂

    • twentysomethinglifeandstyle
      November 16, 2017 / 9:52 pm

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it is a minefield isn’t it?! But we should definitely stop apologising for who we are and what we do! If you have a blog then you are a blogger 🙂

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