Career and Identity: The Connection Whether We Like It Or Not

“I hate it when I have to tell people that I’m a lawyer.” Jason, a 33 year old lawyer from Hamden, said. 
“That’s surprising. Many lawyers think that’s the best thing about being a lawyer.” I responded.  I based my answer on my decade as an attorney and my career counseling with lawyers that confirmed that many lawyers like being a lawyer but don’t doing legal work. Indeed, the origination of Career Path of Abundance: Career Wisdom for Idealists Seeking Happiness and Success stemmed from my observation that many lawyers were unhappy successes (using the simple definition of success in relation to society’s general views on money and prestige).
Jason, however, genuinely did not care about the prestige.  He also was not materialistic at all. Why was he a lawyer? Much like many liberal arts majors, he panicked when senior year approached. Not knowing what to do and with the economy tanking, Jason took the path of least resistance and applied to law school.
Why did Jason dislike telling people he was an attorney? He’s a hugely creative person. In high school and college, he was immersed in music, theatre, and creative writing. He still hangs out with many of his Wesleyan friends who have stayed in Connecticut. Most are still “artsy” as Jason put it and when he meets their artsy friends, he knows they immediately think of him as “one of the suits” (to use a dated Entourage expression).  
Jason is also sensitive and compassionate. He knows that lawyers are stereotyped as cold and ruthless. Jason continued: “Lawyers – not all but the general view of lawyers – are everything that I don’t want to be.”
That was too strong as I pointed out that “smart” and “accomplished” and a few other good adjectives are attached to “lawyers”.  Jason agreed but he noted that lawyers were smart and accomplished in ways that were not him, specifically that lawyers are analytically smart and conventionally accomplished when he viewed himself as creatively smart and aspired to be unconventionally accomplished.
Should people form views about your identity from your job? Perhaps not, although our work is such a large part of what we do that it’s hard not to become what one does all day long.  Regardless, they do as Jason, the lawyer, knows.