How 4 Words Control Your Career Decisions

Did you know four little words form a simple question that, in my experience, has a serious impact on your career decisions? Related: How To Make Wise Career Choices Let me prove it to you: Imagine you are in a room full of strangers. In order to strike up a conversation, besides introducing yourself and asking a person their name, what’s one of the first questions you’ll ask? ANSWER: “What do you do?” There it is. A simple question that is so commonly used in our society, most people ask it absent-mindedly, in the same way they ask a friend, “How are you?” However, the question “What do you do?” has a much more serious implication. That’s because, as soon as we hear a person’s answer, we begin to size them up. Admit it, when someone states what they do for work, we immediately start to think about the profession, our past experiences with people in the field, and then in turn, make generalizations and assumptions about the kind of person they are. In short, we start to decide how much respect we feel we should have for this person. Now, do I think this is a fair or accurate thing to do? Of course not. How many professionally successful people lead miserable lives? Yet, it’s the truth: career identity plays a huge role in how people are viewed. Which leads to this next observation… It stands to reason, if we A) know we are going to be asked this question, and B) recognize we are going to be evaluated on our response, then it’s likely that lots of us choose a career based upon its capacity to impress others. For those of you thinking, “Sure, lots of folks probably pursue a career to gain respect, but not me,” I challenge you to look deep inside yourself. Can you honestly say that your current career choice wasn’t rooted in some initial desire to impress others? And, for those of you who are pondering the possibility that you’ve been pursuing career success to gain respect, let me prove my point with two additional questions: 1) If you had to stand up and introduce yourself to a room full of strangers, besides your name, what’s one of the first things you would tell them about yourself? ANSWER: What you do for work. 2) Think of the most successful person you know. Now, ask yourself, “Did I automatically choose someone with career success?” In other words, did you associate the word ‘success’ with professional accomplishments? ANSWER: Most likely, you chose someone who has accomplished a great deal in their career. Yet, perhaps you can also point out that this success has come at a cost in some other area of their life. (i.e. relationships, health, etc.) My point is this: as a culture, we place a lot of emphasis on our careers as a way to define us as people. But why? Who benefits? Isn’t the goal to create our own happiness? Then, how does being obsessed with professional success as a way to determine self worth help us? Perhaps, it’s time to stop impressing others and start impressing ourselves. For many of us, when work isn’t going well, life isn’t going well, right? Yet, here’s the thing: career success doesn’t guarantee a happy life. In fact, the way many people pursue careers in America leads to very unfulfilled lives. No wonder so many people are dissatisfied with their careers – they’re costing them too much. I say it’s time we start to take the pressure off one another and get to know each other differently - and, hopefully, better. So, here’s what I propose: Starting today, stop asking the question, “What do you do?” and instead, simply ask, “What do you like to do?” Now there’s a question that will give us much greater insight into who a person really is. What do you think? How will changing what you ask people change what you learn about them? More importantly, will it change how you view them, too?


Take Our FREE Quiz!

Want to REVEAL your unique professional strengths? Take the Career Decoder quiz over at CareerHMO, the Career Improvement Platform (it's free). It's time to unlock your TRUE potential and start selling yourself to employers! Take the quiz now! Related Posts: 10 Things Recruiters Won’t Tell You (But I Will!) Worst LinkedIn Summary Ever 10 Reasons Happy People Get More Job Opportunities 3 Techniques To Fight Unemployment Stigma CAREEREALISM’s Founder, J.T. O’Donnell is a nationally syndicated career expert and workplace consultant who helps American workers of all ages find greater professional satisfaction. Her book, CAREEREALISM: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career, outlines her highly successful career-coaching methodology. Purchase her e-book of CAREEREALISM for only $9.95 by clicking here! Photo Credit: Shutterstock

If you saw our first video, you might have heard about the awkward situation one of our viewers, Diane submitted. She has recently worked with a co-worker on a group project. When it came time to present the project at a meeting, Diane let her co-worker present. While it went great, the co-worker proceed to take credit for nearly all of Diane's work. Frustrating to say the least!

SHOW MORE Show less

In this week's episode of "Well This Happened", we want to know what you would do if your co-worker took credit for the work you did...right in front of your colleagues AND boss!

We want YOU to be the career coach and tell us which one is the RIGHT answer!

Think you know? Vote below, and stay tuned for later this week when we announce the right answer (and why the other ones are wrong).

SHOW MORE Show less

If you saw our first video, you might have heard about the awkward situation one of our viewers, Cam submitted. He's been working at a job for awhile, but recently overheard a hiring manager making fun of a candidate with autism right after an interview-not only awkward, but VERY unprofessional!

SHOW MORE Show less

In this week's episode of "Well This Happened", we want to know what you would do if witnessed a hiring manager at your organization making fun of a candidate who they had just interviewed who had autism.

We want YOU to be the career coach and tell us which one is the RIGHT answer!

Think you know? Vote below, and stay tuned for later this week when we announce the right answer (and why the other ones are wrong).

SHOW MORE Show less

Starting a family is one of the biggest milestones in a person's life. It's in those first few months when a parent can really bond with their newborn and make lifelong memories. However, for some new dads, it can be difficult to juggle being a new parent while remaining dedicated to their career.

Fortunately, some companies have generous paternity leave policies that give new dads the ability to take time off of work to stay home with their child.

SHOW MORE Show less

There are LOTS of questions around resume dos and don'ts. There's so much advice out there that it can be overwhelming to try and figure out what's the correct answer.

During our weekly live Office Hours on YouTube, two of our coaches, Ariella Coombs and J.T. O'Donnell, answer questions live from viewers related to their job search, career success, on the job situations and more.

We complied a simple list of what we find to be the most common questions our coaches get about resumes. We hope you find this helpful.

Let's start with the basics...

SHOW MORE Show less