Is What you Do Really Who You Are? Un-blurring the Lines Between Job Role and Identity

Is What you Do Really Who You Are? Un-blurring the Lines Between Job Role and Identity

One of the first questions when meeting new people that tends to be asked is a variation of “What do you do?” A way to get to know someone. But how relevant is a person’s daily tasks and activity to their actual identity? In some cases it can be very; different jobs require different mindsets, mindsets that may already exist or can be formed over time within the job role or position.

Certain careers can breed character traits. A job may mean you have to prioritise the here and now; for example a Doctor in A&E, whereas a team of researchers or someone working on a long term project may need years to reach their achievement. Likewise, how independent a person is or how much they seek or require approval and instruction from others. Some jobs allow much independence and the ability to make your own decisions; others mean that constantly having to take a collective view with little need or use for a personal viewpoint.

Industries themselves dictate these traits. Some may have a logical hierarchy; a clear sense of what you absolutely must do in order to be promoted to a progressing role, yet in others, chance, accidence and allegiances play a role in career progression.

The way that people learn to think at work also can be found within their character in a domestic and social setting. Mentalities followed at work might well be a huge aspect of the overall self, especially when individuals are very invested in their work. The workplace can also bridge gaps where development had been stunted, for various reasons, many starting a result of childhood, schooling and upbringing. An example of this would be where someone had an earlier weakness, for example, being disorganised. The mentality that exists in the workplace could help to overcome this and be educational for the person concerned.

An individual’s character is also sometimes narrowed by work too. Dealing with certain issues regularly and having to think in a certain way can become embedded in the self and other ways of thinking become awkward or seen as ‘not right’ because it is not how the workplace at large deals with problems.

Additionally, stereotypes will always exist. Usually these stereotypes are not unfounded. The technician is laid back and able to master anything as long as they work methodically.

A freelance writer is slightly frazzled and has to mould to work to the demands of others. They are used to being misunderstood. Stereotypes can be even more basic than this and realised at an early age. It is said that by pre-school age, children are already aware of career choices and can display gender bias towards jobs. The most well known stereotype of all is that fewer females pursue Maths and Science, thus are less likely to enter STEM based jobs. What is less obvious is that a ruling out thought process occurs for boys too. Fewer men enter typically female dominated career paths such as those in the care sector, social welfare and even teaching.

Of course to an extent our character’s are defined by work. We all, however can work to stop the stereotypes of how we view people in and out of work. Within the workplace we should not make automatic assumptions of how a person is because of the job role that they are in. Instead we should look at the traits of an individual and their way of thinking, the choices that they make etc as each person has a different workplace personality. One technician may be as methodical as another, but go about it in a completely different way.

If we look at individuals for who they are as a person, not as simply their job title, we can minimise workplace conflict and misunderstandings at work by seeing the bigger picture of who a person is and not just their job title. We fall into the trap of making assumptions based on title, but relationships will improve when we look at behavioural styles of the individual, as well as the styles that are associated with their profession.

Laura Morrissey
Laura Morrissey

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