So, What Do You Do?

After a few minutes of conversing with a new person, one question in particular is bound to arise: “So, what do you do?” This question is universal, regardless of race or gender. At almost any social gathering, it essentially determines whether a conversation will be continued or halted. Answer it correctly, and a stranger could become your best friend within minutes. You discover that your boyfriend went to college with her best friend and your cousin went to summer camp with his worst enemy and so on and so forth and you two should exchange numbers and do brunch one Sunday. Give a stranger the wrong answer, and you might as well sew a scarlet letter “A” on to your party dress (“A” could stand for whatever you choose, but some options include alien, asinine, aardvark… you get the point). Once your would-be friend cringes at what you do, he will politely nod, smile, and ease himself away so as not to catch whatever plague afflicts you and your questionable life decisions.

Let’s discuss what exactly constitutes a “wrong answer.” Maybe what you do carries little to no prestige in most segments of society. You’re a cashier at Chipotle? So, basically you’re poor with no ambition? That’s a wrong answer! Perhaps you work for a company that is widely known for making big bucks on the backs of the little guy? Exploitation is so 1996 so… wrong answer! God forbid you’re living the unemployed life. Wrong wrong wrong answer! As an individual who just recently exited the realm of unemployment, I’ve realized that anyone who I meet that turns their nose down on me because of my job status (or lack thereof) is not a person with whom I could form a legitimate friendship.

The fact that I began writing for the first time since forever, acquired a culinary skill or two, and met awesome new people during my time of unemployment will be lost on many. And that’s fine. I know my inherent value, and it will never be tied to a profession. I do not believe that one’s livelihood defines who he currently is, has been in the past or will become in the future. If a person crunches numbers all day in a cubicle, is that truly  indicative of his personality? Of course not. A cubicle worker may climb to the top of Mount Everest every summer, but since we begin conversations with new people by asking what they do for a living, we miss out on acquainting ourselves with interesting and worthy human beings.

2 thoughts on “So, What Do You Do?

  1. I’ve been wrestling with that question myself because I realized that it is the first thing I ask and it was recently pointed out that the question can be off-putting. Recently, I felt like a jackass because I asked a girl if she was in school because I knew that most of the people around me were. She seemed to think that I was judging her when I was simply trying to establish some common ground. When I ask what someone does, I genuinely want to know whatever it is that’s driving them, whether it’s a career, an ongoing philosophic quest or an obsession with some obscure board game. It sucks that most people who ask “What do you do?” are seeking to put someone in a box when the question could open doors to connection.
    And now, here’s some shameless self promotion! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  2. Totally appreciate the self-promotion… followed! And I so wish people asked me this question in a genuine manner… but nooo. They just want to see if I pass their weird ass standards test :p

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