What Advice Would You Give To Someone Who Sees The Work They Do As Part Of Who They Are?

Interview on career and our identity gave rise to questions from interested listeners. Here I share my take on this interesting topic post discussion with Retirement Guru Patricia Reid-Waugh.

A career is an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress. For example, a child who goes into the family lineage of what they do…lawyer becomes lawyer, doctor becomes doctor, business owner hands down business to the child/children.

A vocation is a divine call to the religious life. Or a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation. For example, a physician who feels led to heal.


What advice would you give to someone who see themselves as having a vocation so that the work they do is part of who they are?

Sometimes a vocation and a career can be intertwined. Diving deeper, a careerist can remain in the same career for many years but enjoy the work in different settings, environments, or companies. So too can a person who has a calling and becomes committed to a vocation. The main difference can be gleaned as one who does a job as a means of survival in exchange for a salary to cover basic needs, wants and desires. This compared to other who will do it even when not being compensated. It’s a commitment to their very existence

Identity Issues that Arise

First, we will look at the definition. A career identity is a structure of meanings in which the individual links his own motivation, interests, and competencies with acceptable career roles.

Against that definition many individuals cannot see themselves as anything but their career. It’s more like a clutch. Executives and senior managers flaunt their titles so others can know who they are. It’s what they identify with. Individuals with lower-level jobs also identify with it and are often ashamed to share that they collect the garbage, for example. Yet turning that around, garbage collection can also be a calling. Just imagine where we would be if the rubbish in our cities were not collected.

A more direct and personal example relates to myself and what I shared about in the interview. I ate, slept, and dreamt about my job. It was more like a duty. There was no difference between me at work and me at home (when I was there). I gave it up when I had my little girl who was basically being raised by a nanny 4-5 years after she was born. As I reflected, I felt the tug of my calling to leave pharmaceuticals and go into direct healthcare where I could impact suffering patients because of my administrative strength intertwined in caring for others. I enabled physicians to work without having to bother about plans for recertification or regulatory compliance needs. This was something I believe was laid on my heart as a Christian. Today, as an author, I am led to make a difference through my experiences which have had the ability to impact individuals not only in my local community but also worldwide especially through my book Ditch It. Switch It and GreenLight: When God Says Go

My commitment to the Lord has helped others achieve his will purpose for them. I do that as a coach, a writer, author, organizational leadership specialist.

Another example relates to my pastor who passed away recently. At his funeral he was seen as a father, grandfather, friend, confidante, mentor and a student. This shows that we can wear many hats. It just depends on how we interface in our different roles as well as how we see ourselves. I believe one of the biggest challenges we face is accepting ourselves for who we are and who we are being led to be. We do not remain static in our roles.

How To Deal With Identity Issues?

Secondly, lets take a closer look at how we deal with the identity issue. Most important, do some introspection. Ask yourself these questions which were discussed in the interview.

  1. How do you think about your job outside the office?

2. How do you describe yourself? How much of this description is tied to your job, title, or company?

3.How would you feel if you could no longer continue in your profession?

Asking yourself these questions (especially #3) will open the avenue to manage these identity issues.

In closing alleviate the identity issue with taking regular breaks (i.e. vacation). Stress is a significant factor that will hinder even the best of us.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do share. We would love to hear.

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