What We Do vs. Who We Are

Whether you’re a regular or you’ve just stopped by for the first time, it doesn’t take long to realize that I’m a big fan of different. I love to write about different learning styles, different cultures, different ideas, different countries, different opinions, different personalities and all the different activities and hobbies that I get into. Basically, my favorite thing to find out about a person is what makes them different… but I’ll be the first to admit that different can be a challenge.

A World Of Same

I’ve spent some time in business school (read: five years) and I run into a lot of same. Haghia SophiaSame classes, same teachers, same topics, same ideas, same people. So when I run into someone in my Economics class who is an accomplished pianist, or an accounting major who creates beautiful oil paintings in their spare time, I remember that business school isn’t who I am, it’s just what I’m doing at this particular time in my life.


So the question is, how do you (and I) create some separation between what we do and who we are?

What we Do

There are a lot of theories about how millennials (aka Gen Y) got to be so “entitled”. One that I’ve seen quite a bit is that when we were growing up, our parents told us that we could “do anything we set our minds to” and “be anything we wanted to be” and to “find our passions.” As rosy as these sentiments are, it’s hard to fit a personality into any one career choice… so, not surprisingly, many of us sort of floundered when it came to the whole move-out-of-your-parent’s-house-and-get-a-job bit. If you’re interests vary even half as much as mine, I venture to guess that you will never find one 9 to 5 cubicle that caters to every single thing you love to do (if you find a position that requires an economist who loves solving word problems and plays classical piano, travels the world, starts businesses, takes pictures and oil paints and studies open data movements worldwide and shops at the flea market and restores furniture, please let me know).

Who we Are

I’m going to begin with a statement that I’m sure will shock you: you haven’t failed if what you do isn’t who you are. On the contrary, you have succeeded. You have found a job that caters to at least one aspect of your personality and lucky for you, me, and the world, that isn’t the only personality trait that you have. The question now becomes, how do you keep up with all those other personality traits?

Dare to Be Different

I think this is where millennials get scared. They are scared that if they take that 9 to 5 in accounting, they’ll never have time to do anything they love and they’ll hate everyone and die an old maid with lots of cats. Therefore, the logical response is to get a part time gig and live with your mom and wait around for the “perfect job” because that’s better than working a job that only caters to one thing you like to do, right? WRONG.

The way to prevent the old-maid-cats outcome is simple:  take a job with a company that values work-life balance. If you are anything like me, doing some creative work is an outlet—its refreshing and makes your brain feel good. Go to work and make some time for those activities you know you love to do and need to do to stay sane. Bringing in a paycheck while you do it and getting out of your parent’s place? Icing on the cake. (Another easy solution: just never buy any cats).


  1. Pingback: #WaytoWork : Work Life Balance and the Millennial Mindset

What do you think?