What do you do?
I really hate that question.
It may seem innocuous enough, but to me, what it feels like people are really asking is this: “How important should I think you are?”
I realize I’m lucky, so maybe this isn’t a fair complaint at all. I have a pretty cool job that I love and when I tell people about it, strangers often respond with favorable comments about the World Famous Medical Center where I’m employed.
But I’m also a little self-conscious about it.
Once in a while, I’ll be having a great conversation with someone and when the inevitable question is asked, there’s a palpable distance created. I’m sure police officers and clergy persons get similar responses. Suddenly that interesting conversation about the other person’s wild trip to Amsterdam morphs into a tame recitation of canal cruises and tulip viewing.
And I make enough social gaffes already, so I would never want to make another person uncomfortable if they were forced to talk about a job they hate or worse yet, recently lost. I also deeply believe that it’s rare that your profession and your passion are one and the same, and some of the coolest people I know don’t have fancy titles or jobs at all.
So, can we make a deal? How about if we meet at a cocktail party, we can talk about the following:
- What do you do for fun?
- What was the best trip you’ve ever taken?
- Or even this: What are you drinking?
I’ll probably talk your ear off.