We’ve all heard it before. The inevitable question that comes from meeting someone new just about anywhere. Sometimes it’ll take a few minutes, other times its mere seconds before the inevitable “So, what do you do?” pops out of your new acquaintance’s mouth.
I hate this question.
To be honest, it’s really never been good to me.
A few years back when people would ask, the answer was “I’m a portfolio analyst for a small investment firm”.
I felt cool at the time – at least at first. I mean, I got the suit and tie I’d always wanted. A big desk with a view. Coming straight out of school I felt like a total baller. Yet its amazing how many people were so genuinely uninterested in that response. It was 6-12 months in that I realized the job illicited the same reaction in me.
After a year of that, I added an addendum: “I also own an urban apparel business”. I knew I was on the right track when someone responded “Well why didn’t you tell me that in the first place?! I could care less about finance.”
You and me both.
These days, its not that simple. I don’t do any one thing. Depending on the day it could be any of the following:
- I send more people to your website
- I golf
- I do whatever I want
- I travel to exotic places
- I own a business
- I do nothing
- I run an international drug smuggling ring
- Whatever else pops into my head at that given moment
I most recently ran into this problem after bumping into an old college friend at a coffeeshop last week. She was looking for a job, and asked what I did. At that particular moment, I’d just gotten off the phone with a major travel venture capitalist, was finishing an SEO project, and was preparing to look into plane tickets to Bali – so that’s what I said.
Boy did that make me feel like a douchebag.
Even if it was true, it seemed like I was trying to brag or talk myself up, which really wasn’t the case. That’s when I realized I’ve got no satisfactory answer to the question “what do you do?” anymore.
My answers are either too vague, too confusing (seriously, no one knows what SEO is), or too informative. I CAN’T WIN!
Then I came to a bit of an epiphany. It’s a good thing that I don’t have a canned answer to that question.
On any given day, at any given hour the answer could be entirely different. By doing a variety of things, and building a variety of skills you not only make your own life more interesting, but you put yourself in the position to be useful to in any number of ways to a variety of different people. As a portfolio analyst, the only people that wanted to talk to me were people looking for that 8% annual return.
Now I talk to people on a daily basis about everything from watch collecting, to island living, to building a blog or business. I think that’s pretty cool.
Here’s something to think about. Even if you have a job in the traditional sense, the answer to the “what do you do” question, doesn’t have to be an easy canned response if you don’t want it to be. Your job is not who you are, nor does it define what you’re capable of.
Start a side business, learn a new hobby, have a kid – all of those things could qualify as things you “do”. The more you go out there and do, the harder the question becomes to answer, and the wider variety of opportunities will await you.
So while, I don’t have an answer to the question, I was still curious as to what other people said in response. Here’s a few:
As you can see, the answers are all over the place. A lot of people like to mix it up with humor, but almost every time that’s followed by blank stares which require you to elaborate.
Bottom line, in the world of small talk, this is one question that you won’t easily get out of. We all ask it from time to time, but I encourage you to start thinking of ways that you can make it the most difficult question to answer.