Are we our occupations?

This is probably an unhealthy way to think about careers, but the way many societies are right now, a person’s career quadruples as the person’s primary identity.

I am what I do

In his article How to find a career that actually fits you? Tim Urban raises an interesting point in this aspect:

« Identity. In our childhoods, people ask us about our career plans by asking us what we want to bewhen we grow up. When we grow up, we tell people about our careers by telling them what we are. We don’t say, “I practice law”—we say, “I am a lawyer.”

Grammatically merging work and self shows how defining an occupation is for us. By conditioning us so strongly to link our occupation to our work, no doubt we feel marginalised when unemployed or “on pause”. Hélène Rougier, a French researcher, develops this opposition between the “professionals” and the others in one of her essays.

When I finished reading this article, I felt like a new world had opened to me. I finally understood why so many of my fellow students were obsessed by working jobs that did not really appeal to our intellectual depth but rather to our egos. By this, I refer to jobs that seem to hold a strong social prestige – often linked to income and the educational bundle you’re supposed to have to access to those jobs. But, which have quite a low impact on society – for instance, I think consulting is one of those jobs.

Knowing that 85% of 2030 jobs don’t exist yet, I started to wonder how relevant was school to help us grow in a certain professional direction. This all the more intriguing since with internet, self-learning has never been more easy (through MOOCs, videos, newsletters and other snackable content). But maybe it’s value lies somewhere else.

Learning hard-skills is a thing, acquiring the specific social codes related to your specific professional environment is another. Interning is just another way to familiarise yourself with your future environment. Bernard Zarca explores this in an essay focusing on corporations. Indeed, each profession has its own slang, dress-code and apprenticeship teaches to the aspiring worker the right attitude/code to adopt. 

As an example, my experience in the startup world now has me being quite familiar with the people I meet, wear my comfy combo jean/tshirt/sneakers even to a job interview… and has me blank when hearing my consultant friends referring to ” being staffed on a mission” or “due dills”.

85% of 2030 jobs don’t exist yet

Colleges, by specialising their  learning, might just offer the right environment for students to start socialising with their peers and future coworkers. Could this be the only future advantage there will be to attending school?


is it the only variable that matters?

All in all I am not that much surprised to see how much value we pour into our job. After all, we work almost 90 000 hours of our lives (on the high end) and we meet quite our fair share of people in this environment. For me, the danger lies in the fact that for some, work is the only defining activity in their lives. Which can lead to strong depressing when leaving the workplace. This can also explain why choosing the right path stresses us out so much when growing up.

What do you think about this topic?

To read more about orientation and career you can always go check Our Milennials Today, I dive deeper into its genesis here.

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