Occupations and Personality

We too seldom think of the profound effect of occupation upon personality. The writer was never sufficiently impressed with this fact until one day when he was walking down the street of a large city and noticed a man in a laundry truck drive up to the curb and climb out to unload packages. The figure bore a striking resemblance to a widely photographed monarch whose picture appears in the presses of all literate nations of the world. He had about the same stoop of shoulder, the same profile, the same smile. Whether the men were of equal ability as well as of similar appearance is not known, but men in equally divergent occupations could, if circumstances in their lives had been different, readily have been in each other's places, carrying on each other's occupation. In America there are many drivers of laundry trucks who have ability equal to that of monarchs who rule great empires, but their life organizations are entirely different. The personality of each is shaped by his task. The code of conduct for each is prescribed by his different social role.

Vocation in adulthood becomes one of the most significant keys to personality in a complex society, for the vocation is, in fact, a personality former. One's vocation determines in a major sense the core values of one's life, the kind of things one rates most highly. Vocation becomes a key to mental processes, to the routine of life habits, time of rising and retiring, kind of reading matter, lack of reading matter. Associations are largely within the vocation.

Vocation has much to do with a man's happiness. A psychiatrist of unquestioned reputation in lecturing to a group told of cases that had come to him with hysterical symptoms. Among them none was more interesting than that of a wealthy Jewish attorney of New York City who, when he came to the clinic, described his pains as centered for the most part in his digestive apparatus. A thorough examination proved that there was nothing wrong organically. Upon questioning it was learned that the attacks always came after a strenuous court case. Further questioning revealed that the man hated his work and had never wanted to enter it. His father was a man who told his children what they were to do and saw that they did it. It soon came out that he disliked and dreaded his work and that he had always wanted to live an outdoor life. Under the advice of the psychiatrist he called his father, told him that hereafter he was going to live his own life, and then made arrangements to go into a lumber camp with a friend. For the first time he faced the future of his dreams, and his days at the clinic were ended.

It is for these reasons and not for economic reasons alone that the choice of a vocation is of critical importance in the life of the modern individual. In fact, it is for these reasons primarily, rather than for economic reasons, that the choice of one vocation over another is of utmost importance. No amount of money can make a vocation compatible to one's temperament, interests, and habit system.

The fact remains that many parents are inclined to consider the choice of a vocation primarily from the standpoint of economic security or status of the position, overlooking the fact that for the youth the vocation must, first of all, satisfy his basic interests and emotions. Happiness and satisfaction in life are likely to be determined as much by the job as by marriage. This is as true for the woman who spends her life in a gainful occupation as it is for the man.

The job is a means through which the male acquires not only a considerable part of his social status, but also the prime avenue through which he expresses creative energy. Through its routines and habits, he achieves the basic satisfactions that come from accomplishment. In the kinds of relations it inevitably imposes upon him, he makes many of his most important adjustments to social groups.

It is for some of these reasons that vocational choice takes on great significance in the life pattern of the adolescent and youth. It is for these reasons, also, that some degree of choice on their part and some degree of experimentation are desirable.

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