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.

Check us out if you like: SYNAPSYS

3 thoughts on “What do you do…?

  1. BrianAlt June 24, 2010 / 2:02 AM


    I’m an IT Director for a public transit agency.

    How do you spend your other time?

    Well, I have 2 kids, 14 and 11, so they keep me busy. I try to go to the gym at least 4x a week these days, 3 hours total. I play softball on Sunday mornings. I teach long-term investing and I’m on the boards of a national organization and a local organization for that.

    What are your hobbies?

    I enjoy computers. I play computer games. Then the things listed above, softball, investing, teaching investing. I also enjoy fine dining with my wife.

    What are your passions?

    Travel! Especially cruising. I guess that’s a hobby too.

    What kind of family are you from?

    Traditional. My parents are still together and I have a 40-year old professionally successful unmarried sister.

    Where did you grow up?

    Born in Brooklyn, NY, grew up in Staten Island, NY.

    Do you have kids?

    Yes, I said that already. Weren’t you paying attention?

    Do you want kids?

    Well, can’t have MORE kids. Got snipped several years back.

    Where did you go to school?

    I completed my Bachelors at Syracuse University in Syracuse, NY. “Let’s Go Orange!” I completed my MBA 4 1/2 years at night at Baruch College, part of CUNY (City University of New York).

    What are you doing after this?

    Literally, like right now? Probably should get some work done, but I’ll probably mostly watch the US – Algeria soccer match. It starts in one hour.

    What about after that?

    Lunch! 🙂

    How’d I do?

  2. Bebe June 24, 2010 / 9:38 AM

    Hehe that is awesome. You are delightful!

  3. Anthea July 16, 2010 / 10:24 AM

    I hate the “what do you do for a living?” question. Because, like you, I find it very hard to explain and nothing I’ve come up with seems to really encapsulate it – but also, because I think it’s archaic that us humans seem to have a fascination with trying to classifying what people fit into by their occupation.

    I gave up on social acceptability a long time ago and with it asking this question when meeting new people – at least not as the opener. Instead I like to ask other things that I think give much more insight:

    What’s your greatest love in life?
    Your greatest disappointment?
    What was the last thing you did that scared you?
    Your fondest memory?
    What really makes you smile inside?

    …you get the picture

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