Does Your Job Define Your Worth?

Jakarta – | What you are going to read here is the thought that oftentimes pops up in people’s minds. It resulted in me having the urge to talk about this. Uh well, more likely to write about that matter. The writer might not be old enough to talk about this nor spend a good deal of time in the professional field. To picture that, during my twenties, I frequently hear such stories about work stuff so it is safe to say that this issue is relatable for millennials or maybe higher and lower generation as well.

So, what is the meaning of work? To be more specific, what’s the essence of having a job?

This is always interesting to discuss especially if you are the kind of person who likes to have this sort of deep talk (hehe!). Meeting up with old friends, college-mates, or former colleagues from the previous workplace are some of several situations that will be a good setting for this kind of conversation with them since most of them work now. 

First thing first, having a job normally will be an ultimate goal for many who pursue formal education. If you could just visualize the graduation day, the aspiring alumni are celebrating their big day to finally move on from one page and get ready to write down the next page of their journey book. What will they write down? Their working records. It is interesting because this may have a wide range of meanings for each individual. 

Some can say that job is indeed their identity which is the concept of ‘you are your job’. For instance, if someone lives and works on the rig to find economical and environmentally safe ways to extract oil and gas from natural reservoirs beneath the seabed, they will identify themselves as an offshore engineer. Another example, someone who anchors or holds a news program together spending time maintaining program continuity between segments after field reporters deliver their respective stories defines himself or herself as the news anchor. Let’s just be clear, sometimes it is not just the occupation. It defines and identifies THEMSELVES!

Some probably are just being realistic. We need a certain amount of money to carry on with life so that does not matter what type of job for them. I found that this is one of the main reasons for work based on a weird high number of hours of phone calls with fellow employees or maybe tons of milkshakes I consume while catching up with peers (pardon me for not being a fellow caffeine fan!). What I learn is they keep doing their job daily and spending their time from one payday to another. While that is a good thing to be able to afford our basic needs, is it enough to define the job itself?

Another point that I got from them is having a job can be a competition: who is faster to get promoted, whose role is more important, whose occupation is more demanding, and so on. Do you feel amazed by seeing someone can get accepted in a notable organization? Does it feel like they’re cooler than you to wear the lanyard with the prestigious company’s logo printed on it? Or, does it wow you to see friends working in the skyscraper while what you have is a 2-floor-office-building? Perhaps we have ever experienced that thought either rarely or continuously. The good thing is that can be beneficial to motivate us to perform better in our workplace so we can create better opportunities in the future. Conversely, that can lock us away in the room of proving mode resulting in us desperately outdoing, outperforming, and out-you-name-it.

So, how does a job become our identity? 

According to Anne Wilson, a professor of psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario on, a long long time ago people did not choose their job. They took the jobs available at that time. Another condition, usually the job was generational which means when your father is a carpenter then you most likely will become a carpenter as well. Due to the increasing number of accesses to education over the past century, it emerges more varied roles, and thus more income tiers. Wilson gave the example of a surgeon. Generally, people tend to assume they have strong education and high income — two metrics that can fulfill society’s standard as an accomplished person. Therefore, it can affect how he or she is subsequently being judged as an individual or at some points indicate which level of prestige the person has in his or her community [1].

Then a further question was created, what are the cons when our job becomes our identity? 

Despite the traditional sense of faitheverybody worships something and workism seems to have major congregants these days. Thompson stated in the article of “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable” on The Atlantic, workism is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human to work more. The more you work, the more productive you are. In that writing, Thompson pointed out that there is nothing wrong with work, when work must be done. But our desks were never meant to be our altars. In this era, the modern labor force evolved to serve the needs of consumers and capitalists, not to satisfy tens of millions of people seeking transcendence at the office. Then, this mismatch between expectations and reality is a potential key for severe disappointment [2].

In the end, what are we chasing?

Is my occupation highly valued by society’s standards? Am I already half of the definition of success? Maybe more or less? What are metrics of success anyway? And the list still goes on. 

The cultural norm is we become hardly satisfied with our own career and it leads us to the loss of ourselves. We stopped experiencing the joy of life due to the lack of control of our lives. We allow people to define us. We have forgotten what it means to live [3].

Depending on your self-worth on your career status too closely is a dangerous game, especially in your twenties when being too picky to get your dream job for the rest of your life is too risky. Your position in your company’s organigram does not translate to your position in life, because each one of us brings a unique combination of skill, experience, and perspective to the table that no one else can offer [4]. Human creatures are unique with different inputs throughout their journey. Define yourself by your beliefs, opinions, what you love to do, and who you love to be around during your 24 hours and not just what you do for your 9 to 5.

Reference list:

[1] Morgan, Kate. 13th April 2021. “Why we define ourselves by our jobs” on

[2] Thompson, Derek. 24th February 2019. “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable” on

[3] Jeff the Writer. 3rd October 2018. “Your Career Does Not Define Your Worth” on

[4] Crum, Molly. 27th August 2020. “How to Separate Your Self-Worth from Your Work” on

Trisina S

Trisina S Journalist of Rumah Millennials As electrical engineering graduate, she has particular interest in technology of both renewable and nonrenewable energy. She is keen on community involvement also reading novels when not spending time with errands.

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