Personality and profession

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I was speaking with two senior editors yesterday about some book proofs we’d all been working on that had gone terribly awry, through no fault of our own. We were debating what to do, when, after proposing a course of action, my boss said, “But does that make me a control freak?”

“Of course it does!” The other said. “You have to be a control freak to be a decent editor.”

This made me start thinking: How much do our jobs have the potential to change our personalities? Our habits, our pet peeves? Or do we pick our jobs because they conform to our preexisting personalities?

For example, I think about my father, who is a computer engineer, and thus has a constant compulsion to innovate, to rewire, to upgrade. Or my uncle, who is the town fire chief and has a corresponding fixation with household safety. Or my mother, who is a teacher and has a deep focus on turning every moment into a “learning opportunity.”

Thinking in that vein, here are the habits and obsessions that being a copy editor has engendered in me:

  • A preternatural sense for finding punctuation errors in text. Sometimes I feel like I can sense them before I even read the paragraph.
  • Compulsive need for correctness in all things, especially factually and grammatically.
  • Googling like a BOSS.
  • Soul-level pain if I leave out a needed hyphen, apostrophe, comma, etc.
  • Need to tell everyone that “is” needs to be capitalized in titles.
  • Compulsion for mental and spatial organization.
  • Being obnoxious about little stuff.
  • Extreme timeliness, meeting deadlines way early.
  • A clean inbox. If I get more than eight unanswered e-mails in my inbox, I start to stress.
  • Excessive list-making. But you already knew that.

What about you? Has your job created any personality quirks in you? Or merely amplified the ones that you already had?