What Do You Do?

When you meet new people, the question that they tend to ask most commonly is “so what do you do?” and in the majority of cases, they are referring to employment. In a way, I think it’s quite sad that this is the first thing people ask, because it suggests that having a job is the most important thing anybody could do with their life. Or, at least, that a person’s job is the most important thing about them.

As you can tell, I disagree with this perspective. I’d even say that I think it’s quite unhealthy to consider your job the most important thing about you (in almost all cases, but not quite all). As a result, it’s never the first thing that I ask somebody, as an alternative, I usually ask “do you have any creative hobbies?” or “how do you spend your free time?” because the answers to these questions give me insights into people which I believe are much more useful.

At the moment, when I am asked, I am quite proud to say that I work for WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) because it’s an organisation with a cause I really believe in, so I will tell people about it – but I still don’t believe I am defined by my work. At times when I’ve had jobs I cared less about, I’ve responded with “I socialise with friends and visit different restaurants” or “I’m a writer” which is usually broad enough to answer the question, but which also encompasses a creative activity I enjoy in my free time. If I really don’t want to talk about work, I’ll say “I don’t know. I go to an office and sit at a desk or something.”

So just keep that in mind next time you’re making small talk with somebody. What can you tell them which really reflects something about you as a person? Does your job really reflect on who you are at all? I’m guessing it doesn’t and for that reason it will be healthy to try and thing of yourself in non-work related terms.

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