What do you reply when someone asks, “What do you do?”? 

People usually answer the above question in the most widely accepted standard format. You might say, “I am a bank manager”, or “I am a theatre artist”, or “I am a mechanic”, etc. 

The other day, “I met a person called Laddu Pinto at a party”. A familiar friend introduced me to Laddu. He said, ‘Nice to meet you, Sir. What do you do?”

I replied, “Laddu, I love to see people well settled in their lives and careers and make efforts towards this goal”. Well, what do you do?” I enquired. 

Laddu replied, “I work as General Manager of Production with a Thermal Power plant at Nashik. I manage a team of fifty-plus engineers and am responsible for delivering xyz amount of power production every day. I am directly reporting to the Executive Director of the organisation. Also, I am responsible for various administrative activities in the unit.

I said, “That’s great, but what do you do?” Laddu was saddened by my atypical response. He said, “Sir, that’s what I told you. He reiterated the above statement, “I work as GM with MNC power plant at Nashik .. blah blah blah…”

When he stopped, I again asked, “Laddu, let me know what you do?” The displeasure on his face was blatantly visible. In an irritated voice, Laddu said, “Now, do you want me to tell you my job description? What do you want to know? Do you want to understand how I spend my time in the day inside the plant?”

I asked Laddu to calm down and appreciated his “professional introduction”. I really respect your job. These words assuaged him. I further said, “Laddu, never make your work life a representation of yourself”. There is always an end to your profession, but your life has to move on. I have seen people who were so glued to their careers that the day they saw a decline in their jobs, it started hitting them hard on peace, health and happiness in their personal lives. 

 Life is not an unlimited offer. Your career is definitely a short-term phase of your life. On average, a person spends, at best, 50% of his life working for professional growth. Out of these fifty per cent days, the person may spend only 30-40% of time dedicated to workspace, which makes it almost 20% of one lifetime!

Why should we allow 20% of life to shadow (and represent) 100% of our life? 

Your job as a scientist, teacher, administrative officer, or entrepreneur is just twenty per cent of your life. Hence, our life goals and ambitions must be at least five times larger, bigger, and different from what we do at work.

Laddu, when you asked me what I do, I said, “I love to see people well settled in their lives and careers and make efforts towards this goal”. I could have said, “I am a Career Counsellor and Psychologist.” I guide students and coach adults to make the right career decisions. However, what I do to earn my bread and butter has an expiry date. As technology keeps upgrading and the world spins in an advanced modern-day lifestyle orbit, my skills and knowledge may someday lose significance. However, nothing can stop me from helping people find happiness and joy in their careers in one way or another! Hence, this is what I long to do consistently.

I suggest all my readers to identify the core purpose of your life. Does the work you do align with that objective? If not, mend it right away. Think big, think long-term and find the answer to this question, “What do you do?” The earlier you get this answer, the more peaceful and joyous you will live!

Do contact me in case you have any career queries.

Dr. Ajit Varwandkar is the Director of myaglakadam.com. He is a leading career counselor and can be contacted on 9826132972 or email him at info@fsindia.in

This column was originally published by the author in The Times of India