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Metropolitan Millennials: Your Career is Not Your Personality

millennial workplace office

I don't know if this is exclusive to just my life experience, but I have found this issue to be consistent across the board with my peers. I have largely been surrounded by people that have grown up in (or in the immediate surrounding suburb) of city environments, typically with some significant form of higher education at reputable institutions under their belt by their 30s. To this day, I don't think I've encountered a single social situation where the dreaded, "So how's work?" question is not uttered as a means to spark conversation. Similarly, one of the first things always asked upon meeting someone new is, "So what do you do for work?" I, too, am guilty of this habit - though I try like hell to break myself of it actively. But it got me wondering, how did it get this way in the first place? We all have so many interesting aspects and functions to our individual lives, why is it that we millennials feel so much that who we are is synonymous with what we do for a living?

In conversation with a friend recently, we talked about all sorts of things. Marriage, family, children, recent travels, you name it. Toward the end of the evening, she looked over at me and expressed how grateful she was that this was the first time that she wasn't forced to discuss work outside of work, and how refreshing that was. Like many people I know, she hates her job. Like, despises every aspect of it. But as a part of the all-too-familiar millennial struggle, is stuck in a depressing cycle of taking on as many hours as she can to pay the mounting bills that fund her life. No one wants to talk about something that doesn't interest or inspire them, much less about something they absolutely loathe. Even if you don't dislike your job, there's something to be said about wanting to enjoy other fruitful discussions about life outside of your daily grind.

So why is it that so many of my peers can't stop associating who they are with what they do? In many ways, I think it's how we've all been programmed, and I think it was totally intentional. The traditional school model conditions the majority of willing participants to effectively be trained to be "model employees" - go to a place, sit down 7+ hours a day, work quietly, and rejoice when the bell rings and you're set free! It's the same reason so many adults I know still "live for the weekend." And I get it - you just want the chance to enjoy yourself and do what you want to do for a change. But then why, oh why, do we incessantly bring up work in our downtime?

So much of our intrinsic human value has now been placed upon what we know (school) and where it took us (career). Society has told us to effectively downplay our personal passions and desires in place of being career-obsessed drones. It's literally come in the way of having any type of traditional family, or raising our own kids in many cases. The reality of it all can be depressing, and many don't have the chance to really change their circumstances without significant risk and sacrifice. But who you are is not what you do.

For example, I'm Christine. I'm an artist, a writer, a creator. I love discussing culture, different philosophies, and learning what makes people tick. I am inspired by people who are courageous, and aren't afraid to speak their minds and live life on their own terms. I enjoy traveling, Mediterranean food, and exploring with my husband and two kids. I've been an entrepreneur for over a decade and built many businesses from scratch, so I love discussing new ideas about how to make someone's dream a reality. I'm a big fan of MMA, take pride in having full autonomy over my time, and enjoy learning about my Cuban and Italian roots. I love late 90s and early 2000s hip-hop music, have watched almost all of the Real Housewives franchises, and fawn over a good gluten-free dessert. I mean... that's just the tip of the iceberg on me! If you want to know about my work, I'm an open book, but I don't need to talk about that constantly. We all have so many layers that make us interesting and unique. What would you say if I were to ask you to tell me some things about yourself, not discussing work at all?

If you feel stuck, that may be a sign that you need to really think about your priorities in life. Your career is not your personality. Being a nurse, or a cop, or a teacher, is not a personality trait, it's your occupation. Sure, many of us are passionate about what we do, but we need to begin separating that from who we really are. Most people had a laundry list of things they would've said they loved as a kid. Hobbies were easy to have then before the real stresses of life crept in. But maybe it's time we get back to that? I have a feeling we'd all be better off. If happiness and structure in your life is primarily integrated within the confines of your place of business, you're just another unfulfilled human on the hamster wheel counting down until retirement. It's a miserable existence to live life that way. Consider the things that bring you genuine joy, and lean into those. Make time for them. Involve your family and friends. Meet new people during these experiences that can become a part of your village. Start doing things for you.

Your job was never designed to be more than a means to fund your life. Your life was never supposed to be your job.

Let's course correct now while we've still got so much more time left on this rock. Let's get back to basics with the things that are most important, and not waste one more minute in a soul-sucking existence. If you hate your job, make a plan, and quit. If you like your job, awesome, set some boundaries so it doesn't seep into your true quality of life enjoyment. And let's start redefining who we are by what we are, not what we do.


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