Career vs. Identity: Does Your Career Define You?

What do you do? We’ve all been to enough parties (career-related or otherwise) to have asked and answered this question about a million times. Which made us wonder: why is it our reflex to ask this question of every new person we meet?

Our careers can be such a big part of our lives that they define us completely, but they don’t have to. In fact, at Career Cooperative we believe that a healthy, happy work life encourages pursuing passions and relationships outside of the office. Because although your career inevitably impacts your identity, it can be problematic when it defines it.

Even when you are intentionally networking for your future role, real connections can often happen outside of job talk. You have a much better chance of making a lasting connection with someone who you have a personal connection with, and a better chance of rebounding quickly from an unexpected career transition if you have a supportive community that extends beyond your employer.

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So, the next time you’re at a party, or encounter someone new who you’d like to know more about, try replacing “What do you do?” with one of the questions below. These questions can get at a broad range of topics, address the whole person standing in front of you, and strike the right balance of “How do you do?” and “Tell me about yourself?”:

  • Tell me your story. . .how’d you get here?

  • What are you most excited about right now?

  • What do you do for fun?

  • What are you looking forward to?

What introduction questions do you like to ask? Did we miss any? Email us with your suggestions: and