But instead of tying those connotations to the person, Mr. Markman suggests looking at job titles a different way: as verbs, rather than nouns.

“When you go to a party, one of the first things you ask someone is, ‘What do you do?’ because of that belief that it tells us something deep about who they are,” he said. “One of the things we have to do is to really try to treat our career more like a verb than a noun. There’s a lot of research on nouns that shows that as soon as you give a label to something, you come to believe that somebody or some object has essence of that thing. A cat — why is a cat a cat? It has essence of a cat. That’s true not just for biological categories, it’s true even for professions.”

No job that anyone could take uses all of a person’s skills, Mr. Markman said, so rather than focus on a job title as a defining characteristic, we should instead think of a job title as merely one component of a complex person who has other skills, passions, challenges, ideas, values and more.

So what does that mean for you, the potential career-switcher? In essence, it’s this: Your job title doesn’t define you. It’s just one slice of your identity, and swapping out one for another doesn’t change the core of who you are.

Maybe it’s the main — or only — question on your mind: What about the money?

Unfortunately, no one can answer that except you. Considerations like family, location, age, debt load, savings, relocation plans, retirement goals and many other factors come into play. It’s true that some studies have said that money starts to offer diminishing happiness returns once a salary reaches about $75,000 — while other studies have found different results — but something you should try to weigh is this: You can’t spend your way out of doing something that makes you genuinely miserable.

“Doing something you feel is satisfying can actually increase that level of happiness in ways that no amount of money will,” Mr. Markman said.

And that pursuit of happiness, all things considered, can sometimes lead you down surprising paths.

“I’m a big believer that we shouldn’t be the ones who edit our life story. We should allow the world to edit our life story,” Mr. Markman said. “So take advantage of opportunities, try things, give a job a shot. There’s very little cost to putting yourself out there.”



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