You are a human being.
When you were young, do you remember being asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”?
What the hell kind of question is that? Its a leading question is what it is. It programs us into thinking of ourselves as our occupation from an early age.
Almost every kid that gets that question answers it with an occupation. Firefighter, astronaut, doctor, teacher, movie star. Technically, this isn’t even a valid answer. We didn’t ask what do you want to do when you grow up, we asked what do you want to be? How about, “A good person”, or “happy” or “independently wealthy”?
How did we get so mixed up that we define ourselves by our jobs? When does a person become a human resource any way? When do we give up our soul to become an employee?
Why would we willingly choose to give up our identity, our “self” for the illusion of security? Granted, when The Greatest Generation was coming back from World War II and they were rebuilding this country, this was a different place to live. The country was all about regaining our position as a world leader in manufacturing and developing new technologies. Businesses were loyal to their employees. It was reasonable to expect to get a good job, work hard and retire with a decent set of benefits.
Today, after decades of Total Quality Management and focus on reducing defects by minimizing variation in processes we are less concerned about the people we work with than the positions they fill. The pervasive attitude of efficiency over people has corrupted this countries attitude towards its people. We have become the victims of our own competitive drive to be the best.
It should not come as a surprise that more and more people are literally worried sick about their jobs. As job security is going away more and more people are falling victim to stress-related long term absence. They are also going to work sick so that they are not as likely to be considered expendable.
One reality we must face is that no one is irreplaceable in a job. However, the other side of that coin is that if your job can survive without you, you can survive without your job!
How people do what they do is just as important as what they do. Megan Fitzgerald, Expat and International Career Coach
You would think that with all the effort that businesses put into hiring the “right” people, that they would also work to show how valuable those same people are. But that isn’t easy. Its messy. Things like cultural fit, loyalty, dedication are critical to the impact a person can have in their job, yet they are not easily measured and therefor often not rewarded.
So, what can you do? For starters, divorce yourself from the idea that your identity is wrapped up in your job or occupation. You are a unique individual that occupies a position. You can choose to occupy a different position. Even if you never leave your current job, just understanding that you have value beyond your employment will benefit you in all aspects of your life.
When you open yourself to this kind of introspection, one of the dangers is that you will have to face some of your inner fears. You may have to ask yourself if you are willing to overcome some deeply rooted misconceptions you have. Are you good enough to do something else, something more? Do you really have value to provide outside of your current job?
Of course you do! These insecurities are just the result of the endless conditioning that you get. From society, from your coworkers, from your family. All around us there are subtle pressures to be “grateful for the job that we have”. Maybe this is the reason that the old idea of “get good grades, get a good job, work hard, retire” is still around. There is just so much societal pressure to maintain that model. Even in the face of changing times and changing attitudes from businesses about their employees.
When you get a clear understanding of who you are, not just what job you fill, you will gain a new found freedom. By defining yourself as a collection of skills, experiences, strengths and qualities you can get a true picture of the value that you are able to offer the world.
With a clear understanding of your value, it is possible to rise above the emotional roller-coaster that comes from job (in)security and even job changes. This kind of emotional-grounding can also put you in a position of offering an even greater amount of value to your employer. People that add real value for a company are always in demand.
You are not your job. You are not how much you have in the bank. You are not the contents of your wallet. You are not your khakis. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
So, who are you? What are your skills, experiences, strengths and qualities? I promise you that your combination of those is unique. You have something to offer that no one else ever has or ever will!
If you need help finding the answers to these questions, be sure to sign up for the email list on the right. We’ll be providing more insight and help in this area in future posts!
Other posts you might be interested in:
The following sources were critical in developing this post: