What I Have Learned: Work and Identity
If I have learned anything in the almost 28 years that I have been at Bloomsburg University, it is the importance of my work to my understanding of who I am. We all fill many roles in life — spouse, parent, friend, community member, citizen — but to the outside world I present myself as a professor of philosophy. That’s who I am.
I decided to major in philosophy after that first introductory class showed me the questions and issues that interested me were part of this discipline. Having made the decision early as an undergraduate, it wasn’t long before I started asking my professors what I had to do to get a job teaching philosophy.
To their credit, they didn’t tell me to forget it, that the field is just too crowded and I shouldn’t waste my time trying for a faculty job. Rather, they patiently explained the academic path I needed to take, and how difficult it would be, and let me make my own decision.
Perhaps naively, I pursued the path they laid out, finishing my undergraduate degree in philosophy, and going on to earn my doctorate. Over 10 years, from the day I entered college to the completion of my Ph.D., I thought about how great it would be to teach, to be a professor of philosophy. A year after finishing my degree I came to Bloomsburg, and have been happily working at something I love ever since.
But for current students and recent graduates, the world has changed. We’ve all heard the statistics about flux and fluidity in the workplace, that the typical person changes not just jobs, but careers, multiple times over his or her work life. And perhaps because of that amount of flux and change, many younger employees view work simply as a means to an end, a way to earn a good salary in order to do the other things in life that they value.
That view of one’s work may well be the rational strategy to adopt in these circumstances. Still, I worry about what is lost in doing so: the sense of belonging to a profession or occupation and the recognition that work is an important part of “This is who I am.”
Scott C. Lowe
Professor and Department Chair, Philosophy