A Way to Remind Yourself That You Are More Than Your Job

Amy Shearn
Forge
Published in
2 min readFeb 15, 2021

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Photo: Luis Alvarez / Getty Images

It’s never a great time to stake your identity on your job, but right now may be among the worst: We’re living through heightened job insecurity. No one is functioning at 100%. And if you’re working from home, the lines between your employee self and normal self are already frustratingly blurred.

In the New York Times, Tim Herrera shares a great piece of career advice about how to redraw those lines between what you do and who you are: “Think of jobs as verbs, rather than nouns.” He notes that this mental shift “can help to disentangle who you are as a person from how you spend your days”—for example, saying “I do youth education” rather than “I’m a teacher.”

Cognitive science has backed up the idea that thinking in verbs can change the way people conceive of work. And as Herrera points out, “it’s more important than ever not to tie your entire identity — and, in particular, your life satisfaction — to the thing you do for money.”

Seeking some deep fulfillment from our careers and building our identities around our “dream jobs” is a relatively recent phenomenon anyway, as Jean Hannah Edelstein wrote last year in Forge:

[The dream job has] always been a notion steeped in privilege, requiring a certain level of security and agency as a worker to fully buy in… And as we look to the unfamiliar future of work, it may be time to reconsider not only whether the dream job is a feasible thing to aim for, but whether aiming for it serves us well at all.

Read her entire piece here, and then find your own verbs:

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Amy Shearn
Forge
Writer for

Formerly: Editor of Creators Hub, Human Parts // Ongoingly: Novelist, Essayist, Person