How To Find Your Occupation

I’ve talked before about how I don’t like the way we define what people do or ‘who’ people are by the way they acquire money. But it’s really hard, when meeting someone new not to jump straight in and ask them about their job/what they do for a living etc. It’s just what happens because it tells us enough about them to give us more prompts to continue the conversation.

I always catch myself asking others this question, but I myself hate being asked because I never know what to say. I do all sorts of things in order to buy a living with my time, but none of it is particularly interesting or in itself defining of me as a person. And you expect a noun too (like I am a Doctor, a Teacher, a Musician, a Banker, an Insurance Salesman, a Delivery Driver etc).

A while ago rather than asking ‘what do I do for a living’, ‘what is my job’, or ‘what kind of work am I in’, someone asked ‘what is your main occupation?’

I like this. It is so open-ended and is probing, albeit subtly for a specifically personal and unique response.

What is your main occupation?

This is not just physical either.

What occupies you?

This is a question or notion we use in a sense for our thinking. Our mind is pre-occupied or completely occupied with thoughts. When we are stressed or excited we get pre-occupied in our mind.

When we are at work, if we are doing a job for which we have no passion, a job to pay the bills then that is most likely not our main occupation. Our mind will be elsewhere and as soon as we leave the building we turn fully to our real, main occupation, whatever that may be.

My main occupation is thinking of ways to communicate, of writing, of music and of creativity. Whatever I am doing, this is always there, occupying my mind.

Now our job may well be our main occupation and for many people it is, but I realised, through being asked this question I was much happier to answer because I knew what I could say and was delighted to talk about it.

It requires a paradigm shift from our pre-occupation AS A SOCIETY with money, how people earn and the supposed intrinsic relationship between that and our identity as people. And move it to what we’re passionate about, what we enjoy doing, what we think about.

Our occupation has nothing to do with how we earn money; our occupation can BE money. If money is all we think about then MONEY is our occupation, not the job we do to get it, but the money itself.

Our occupation is what keeps us ticking. Some of us might not even consciously know what our occupation IS, and it may require a little bit of time working it out. Many of us might have really unhealthy and destructive occupations and some might want to actively change our occupation. But whatever it is we ALL have occupations and we like to talk about them.

  1. I definitely identify with what you say about catching myself asking that question because it’s an easy route into a conversation, and I hate being asked it, too.

    What’s changed things slightly is that I actually enjoy my current day-job, and I’m increasingly fine with that being the way someone identifies a part of me, but not all of me.

    My main occupation is to make things, mainly music and fiction. I love taking on new projects all the time, and these personal projects that I am seeing through outside of work and on my own terms are definitely my main occupation.

    Great post!

  2. beginning a conversation… it’s really hard work for some of us! getting people to open up is all about open ended questions and not being rushed… genuinely wanting to listen to their answer. Often is not our job that defines us but what occupies our thoughts.
    As far answering your question… my main occupation is hard to define to one. Multiple answers would include parenting(and loving it!), thinking of Faith or interior design or cooking.

    1. I know, Emma it really is – I struggle with it so much! That’s so true – I love coming up with ways to actually get people to talk about what they WANT to talk about. I always feel so awkward when I’m asked what I do. It’s kind of too broad and narrowing at the same time. I try to make a rule of not talking about the things that bring in the money now. Parenting is a HUGE occupation, and another one which is neglected through the job paradigm (ie sometimes overlooked as a job – an interruption to career etc)! Far harder work than any employment.

      I imagine your blog is a big occupation now too – getting things like that started are exciting and consuming!

      Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

  3. I have the same problem, and I usually try to ask (people I want to have a deeper conversation with at any rate) what do you do with your time? as this has the same effect as you describe, asking what people do when they have a choice rather than what they do because of the society and economy we live in etc.
    To answer your question: I think about creativity a lot!! And also wishing I didn’t think so much about it!!

    1. Yeah I like that! I think it’s probably something that people pursuing ‘creative’ avenues in work are very aware of. ‘What do you do with your time?’ gives you space to talk about whatever you like. Good.

      Haha, I know the feeling. Can identify with both of those!

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