Don't be defined by your day job

June 17, 2017

After the Olympics last year, I found myself in a bit of a rut. I knew I had to dedicate the next six months to rehabbing my knee, but while I was doing that, I needed to figure out what to do with my career. 

I graduated in 2013, worked at a marketing company for two years, and then committed a year to the Olympics where my main focus was hockey. Once I got back from Rio, that daunting question was floating around in my head… “Now what?”

I didn’t want to go back to an office job, so I made the leap into self employment. When I made that leap, I felt really self conscious about what to tell people that I do for a job. It hit me the most when I went to fill out a form, and staring back at me was a big space next to the word “OCCUPATION: ________________"

I just sat there for a while, looking at the blank line. trying to figure out the best label to define what I did. I’ve have never put ‘athlete’ in this section, even though playing for the Black Sticks takes over the biggest part of my life. We don’t get paid as professional athletes, so that left me with my ‘job title’ to fit in the gap. I used to be able to put ‘Marketing Executive’ and that seemed to look quite proper. Now, all of these labels were circling my head. What should I put? Self Employed? Mentor? Speaker? 

After about a minute of internal agony, I realised how silly I was being. What does it matter what I call it? I’m doing something bloody kick ass, for the good of others. I scribbled down ‘self employed’ and left it at that. I went away not completely satisfied with that job title, but at least it was a step in the right direction. 

Something I was told recently at a networking event really stuck with me from brand expert Phil Pallen. He said, “Brand yourself by who you WANT to become, not necessarily who you ARE right now. Put it out there. Own it. Association determines destination. Fake it until you make it, baby!"

I got out a pen and wrote: Brooke Neal. Olympian, Founder of the All About Balance Initiative, Motivational Speaker and Mentor. You’ll see this currently on the front page of my website, and I’m proud of it! I’m putting it out there, and owning it.

This whole train of thought then got me thinking about how stupid it was that I was even getting caught up on what I ‘labelled’ myself in the first place, and why people should be defined by their day job anyway. 

Whenever I meet new people now, it’s fascinating to realise just how job focused we have all become. A normal conversation starter when meeting someone for the first time usually involves asking the person what they do for a living.

I struggle with this question a lot because IT IS SO SUPERFICIAL. Why should our day jobs define us? We might not all have the luxury of doing a job that’s our biggest passion. Why can’t we start the conversation with this question: “What are you passionate about?” Jonathan Fields, author of The Good Life Project, gave me this idea on one of his podcasts and I’ve tried it out quite a few times since then.

It’s amazing the response I get. It’s almost as if the person you’re talking to has already prepared the answer in their head, as they expect you to ask about their jobs. But when you surprise them by asking what they are passionate about, you sense this change of perspective. One girl actually said to me, “Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that by a stranger before! I love that.” The conversation opens up so much, and it’s so rewarding to see the light in someone’s eyes when they talk about their passion, whether that is cats, dancing, yoga, their kids, or their day job - which happens to be their biggest passion!

Imagine a world where instead of having ‘Job Title’ or ‘Occupation’ on forms, it instead had: "PASSION __________"

So, let’s start again shall we? Hi! I’m Brooke. I’m really passionate about a lot of things, I won’t keep you here much longer. But recently, I’ve found what makes me light up is helping younger teenage girls (particularly over achievers and athletes) with their issues and struggles at high school. Giving them the strength, tools and support they need as they navigate the tricky terrain in their lives. 

So, next time you meet someone new, why not ask them what their passion is, rather than asking them what their job is?

-Brooke

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