Overwhelmingly, when I meet new people, they always seem to want to know what line of work I use to feed my family. I am sure you’ve been there before…
“Hey Jonathan, this is George, he’s a tax attorney.”
“Good to meet you, Jonathan, what do you do?”
Now I am assuming he means what I do for work. I once read in a self-help book that, the title has long packed up its belongings and left my memory, gave a clever answer to that very question. It said instead of listing what you do for work when people ask what you do, instead pick your favorite character trait and lead with that.
For example: “Oh, I am a passionate father who loves to go to my kid’s sporting events and for work, I am a writer.”
For a very long time, I held tight to this idea, even though I never put it into practice because I thought it was a positive way to break through the social identity of work is our primary personality trait. Thinking more on this idea, I actually find it a little abrasive.
How to work work into conversations
Abrasive may sound harsh but think about it. We all know the intent of the question, yet because we chose to define ourselves by other means than work then that means we have the right to ignore their desires?
Think about that for a second.
I agree that we should not identify our life primarily by our work, so I have no issues with not wanting to lead with work, but let’s flip the conversation. What if you went to the paint store for a particular shade of yellow for your freshly sanded kitchen cabinets. You walk up to the counter and ask the clerk, “What is the right brush for this particular paint?” and with eagerness, they say, “That is a wonderful shade of yellow, we pride ourselves on the many quality paints we can provide. All of our brushes are over in the corner.”
Rude? No, but obviously the clerk wanted to make their point more than helping out. So if you want to make sure your identity is not associated with a self-absorbed person, answer the question and be polite. But then flip the conversation. There is no reason your new friend can’t walk away knowing more about you than your work.
Why worry about identity at all?
Many conversations these days revolve around labels and identity. I do not want to go down that rabbit trail, but I will say one thing.
Forget for a moment how the world sees us, but how do you see you. If you identify your personality with work, then sing it from the rooftops, but if your identity is better associated with the passions that drive your decisions, then the world must know. Don’t hide behind the ice-breaker questions. Break the barriers and be the beautiful person God created you to be.
Tired of struggling financially?
Here’s a side-hustle almost anyone can do.
But I won’t spoil the details. Check out Nicki’s page.
She got me started down this amazing journey.
Curious about what I do in my free time when I am not writing?
Check out my business’ home page: CCSE
Connect more with Dr. Caroline Leafe on IG.