What do you do…?

People ask each other this all the time. “So, what do you do?” Of course, what they mean to say is “how do you waste your time in that 8-10 hours of daylight each day?”

I never know the etiquette of asking this question. I am terminally nosy about other people’s lives, and I always want to know these kinds of details about them. In my perfect world, what-do-you-do-for-living? would be closely followed by “how do you spend your other time? What are your hobbies? What are your passions? What kind of family are you from? Where did you grow up? Do you have kids? Do you want kids? Where did you go to school? What are you doing after this? What about after that?”. Honestly, if I wasn’t being polite, I could be relentless. Once I decide I like someone, I want to know all about them. People and their lives and their choices fascinate me.

But, anyway, back to the point. At hockey on Monday, we got to the “what do you do” conversation in the locker room before the game. Some people were definitely more forthcoming than others.

Why is this? Are you reluctant to share what you do with others? Is it a status thing? i.e. you don’t want to position yourself as being of either higher or lower status than others in the conversation. That was my assumption.

For me, the only reluctance is around explaining what I do. When I taught sociology and anthropology at the University of Canterbury, explaining my job was straightforward (see how easy that was?). Everyone understands the concept of a university lecturer, even if they might be a bit hazy on the sociology/anthropology bit. So it would be a conversation starter: “Oh, what does a sociologist do?”

Now, I am an educational designer and project manager. They are vague, hard to explain terms. They don’t really sound like a proper job. Telling people what I do nowadays is often a conversation stopper. People don’t really know what to make of “educational designer” and I have trouble explaining it. Usually I resort to “I write training manuals for polytechs and other places like that”. But that’s not really what I do. A big part of my job is actually managing my own and other people’s work processes. It’s what I really love doing. I spend a lot of my day tracking work coming into my company from clients, recording it, allocating the work to an educational designer, editor or graphic designer, and then sending a beautiful product back of to the client for them to wow over.

I need to develop a slick patter for when people ask me the job question. The starting point for me? I love my job. Did I mention that? I really do.

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