Your Career Should Not Define You

career quote

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of articles focused on the phenomenon of women being overly devoted to their careers. Specifically, women who say that their career is their life, their baby, their everything. Does this sound incredibly sad to anyone else, or is it just me?

I’m all for loving your career and job. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious about getting that promotion, loving your boss and coworkers or even semi-bragging about your accomplishments- we all do that. But there is a fine line between having a career and letting that career define who you are.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I am a firm believer that when you leave the office, you should leave your job behind. This means not spending hours catching up on e-mails that could easily wait until the morning, not spending your free time worrying about that recent assignment, and not staying in the office until 7 pm to prove to your coworkers that you are dedicated (P.S. the amount of hours you stay in the office is NOT an indicator of how hard you work or how good of an employee you are, despite what some annoying people may say.) If there are days when your workload is out of control and you have to take some of your work home, so be it. But it doesn’t have to be a daily thing- and it shouldn’t.

My question for these women is, “Does dedicating your entire life to your career really fulfill you?” Do you enjoy spending 12 hours a day cooped up in an office when you could be having a life? Are you okay with that fact that all your friends have boyfriends or husbands and you’re basically dating your job?

Many young women in my peer group feel that their career is something they can control, unlike things like finding a partner or finding happiness, so they dedicate all their time and energy into it. But deep down, are they really all that happy? Is working at a name-brand company really worth it if you’re paid jack shit and are basically a glorified assistant that holds a Masters degree? I don’t think so.

So many young women feel that they have to hold onto their career so tightly to show everyone their worth and happiness. And it makes me sad. You are not defined by your career. You don’t have to dedicate your life to your career to prove your worth, whether it’s gender-based or not. By all means work your ass off, learn new things, and teach others, but don’t let your job take over your life. You’re worth a lot more than a LinkedIn title or byline.

22 Comments

  1. I’m on the same page as you, at the end of the day it’s just a job and i’m sorry but it’s not as important as your health and personal relationships. When I’m out of work I don’t think about work, nor do I even talk about it. I’m thankful for my career but it’s not my life.

  2. Well said! I have been a teacher for 14 years and I have done this to a certain extent. I am married, but my job is pretty much how I define my life. Now, at 36, I am looking back at the fact that my life is virtually the same as it was 12+ years ago. I have not grown or changed, no major life milestone – including a family. I am past the recognition stage and now growing resentful to a certain extent. My job does not define my life as much any more,but it definitely rules it. I am making roads to do something new, but it is a very stressful and anxious road. I agree that women need to define themselves by something other than there jobs. This is a real challenge in our current society that preaches climbing a ladder and having a certain lifestyle. If we recognize it, we can change it.

    Thank you for the post!

  3. I love your posts so much. I think that people in general let ONE thing really define them. Then, when something bad happens, everything falls apart because everything revolved around that one thing defining you.

  4. I think as far as our generation goes, half of us feel this way (myself included) and the other half are obsessing over getting everything right and following what they see their elders doing. My work never, ever comes home with me. I’m adamant about it. However, I think it’s also important to remember that not everyone wants to spend their time finding a relationship or working toward marriage. We’ve got to break away from all different types of “norms” and attempt to understand that people invest their time in different things. For some people, their job is truly their passion and that’s okay. I appreciate you sharing your perspective with us!

  5. I could not agree with you more! I was raised with this same mentality. Once you leave work, you are done. No more thinking about it, no calls, no emails. It will never be as important as your family and personal life, and there is nothing that can’t wait until I am back in the office Monday morning. I have a few friends that think that work is their life and I just cannot understand it. I do enjoy my job, but their is no way that I would put it first.

  6. I think the issues of letting your career take over your life and letting it “define” you are actually separate. Maybe this depends on the field you’re in (I’m in research — yay academia!). My career is my passion — something I’ve spent my adult life working toward and something that I’m happy to have as my defining factor or the first thing people think of when trying to describe me. But I do agree that people should be cautious about careers taking over their lives. It’s important to have something else — whether that be a significant other or a hobby or even a pet — and it’s important to keep things like that distinct from work or else you will burn out FAST.

  7. I love when you post conversation starters like this!

    So here’s my take: I agree to an extent- but I think this definitely depends on your industry and where you currently are within it. With things like current day social media and 24 hour access to anything online, we’ve done this to ourselves.
    I do firmly believe in family first- and I hope and pray that if I ever found myself in a situation where I would have to choose, I would pick a PERSON over a JOB. But at the same time….if you have high career asperations, you have to put in your time. And in some industries that means nights and weekends. I would definitely rather put in my nights and weekends while I’m young so that I can live the life I dream of with my family later. But like you said, I really hope that people value themselves higher than their job title.

  8. This topic is a tough one for me… I go back and forth on how important a successful career is to me. I think it comes down to the type of person you are. I completely agree that if certain women are putting so much pressure on themselves to let their careers define them because they are just trying to impress other people or have bragging rights, that’s silly! Let it go and find something that will actually make you happy! On the other hand, I took a very different route in college and my career so far. I am such a passionate person that I want to someday do what I want and maybe work 60 hours a week but because I am truly happy and fulfilled in what I’m doing. For now, I definitely try to leave work at the office because I’m not in that fulfilling career yet. I want to have a career I’m passionate about, whereas I know people who chose their career path because they wanted to make enough money to fund their passions but not do it full time, whether that’s doing art on the side, traveling, etc. I also think our generation has a lot of pressure to prove ourselves because of our parents. A lot of our parents grew up in a difficult time and didn’t have a lot (both of my parents grew up without much at all) and then were surprised with the amount of success they had in their careers. I’m not saying our parents didn’t work their BUTTS off too, but there are definite factors with the economy etc. at that time. And so in raising us they want the best and want us to accomplish our dreams. It’s a lot of pressure and I know I’ve sometimes felt I need to switch jobs to work at a “big name” place just to impress my parents so they can brag about their children to their friends. How silly is that?! I know my parents don’t want that, they want me to be happy and I WANT to be happy. So anyway, there is definitely a balance, but I think a lot can depend on someone’s personality. Thanks for sharing this – I love when you write on these types of topics!

    1. I’ve felt the same, specifically about working for “big name” companies. But those aren’t always the right fit or they make it impossible for a life outside of work.

  9. Hi Rachel, I am new here and so happy I stumbled across your blog! You have written a very interesting article and raise a lot of thoughtful questions. I am so excited to read the rest of your posts.

  10. Ugh, this is a tough one. For one, I think it’s important to be invested in your career, but it’s hard to find a balance between it all! I’m of the firm belief of doing what makes you happy, whether that be being in love with your work or devoting time to the othe things in life 🙂 xx

  11. Great post Rachel – having been at the corporate world for almost half my life I would say a healthy work life balance is a must!

  12. I only wish I could leave my job behind when I leave work, but unfortunately that is just not the case for teachers. I love my job, it is who I am, I am a teacher. I am teacher from 6a to 6p to 120 kids that are not my own, and I hope to be a wonderful teacher, mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend though out my life. Being a teacher will always be a part of me.
    xx

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