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.
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.
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?