What Do You Do?

Just only a couple of days ago, while my girl was running around the playground with a newly found friend, the other mom asked me the what-do-you-do question and without really waiting for my answer started telling me all about her career… I never got to know her name, because although I introduced myself, she never really felt the need to mention her name as well.. Interesting, right? Well, at least we had some sort of conversation…

I always get uncomfortable when people ask me “what do you do”, especially right after only just have met them. Not because I feel that what I do now or did before is not worth mentioning. I am a stay at home mom, who every now and then works on little projects from home and simply loves it. So why does this question irk me? It irks me because I find it very shallow. It’s like talking about the weather… And it confuses me, as I personally rather try to get an idea of the personality of someone, because in the end that is what I will have to deal with and what I found way more exciting.

I understand that we need a CV to pinpoint who has the best background for a job and to hopefully hire the right person. Nevertheless personality should also play a role. I had the pleasure to have met what for me was one of the greatest entrepreneurs (at least in Europe) of our times. He was always a little bit different then others. And he also had slightly different approaches in so many areas.Β  Nicolas G Hayek once told me that in his eyes someones personality is more important than his CV. “You can have a dream education and be the best of your area on paper. But that does not mean that you understand people and the way they work and the way business works.” I will never forget those words. He surrounded himself with the people he knew he would be comfortable with. And this is something a CV can not tell you. Being comfortable with someone has nothing to do with your background. It all comes down to personality. The chemistry between the individuals.

So why is the what-do-you-do such an important question everywhere, on playgrounds, sports fields, dinner tables? Does it really matter? Isn’t it more important who I am, what kind of person I am? Are we no longer interested in the person sitting next to us but rather in what they do? Are we really as shallow? Or are we so insecure that we need to constantly measure ourselves on others, or on what others to for a living? Or is there a hidden agenda? Are we always on the lookout to open up a new door, the I-don’t-know-this-person-really-but-he/she-does-that-for-a-living-and-I-might-need-that-one-day kind of thing?

And as if it is not enough some people then also ask the what-does-your-husband-do? Seriously? And why should that matter? So if I can not be put in one of the very interesting drawers of what-people-do, then at least into the drawer she-has-a-husband-with-an-interesting-job drawer? Seriously?! Can anybody out there please explain to me why you would ask that question?

Don’t get me wrong. I do ask people what they do or even what their partners are doing. But the question only comes up when we know each other already and when it is not out of context. When I feel comfortable asking because I already have some sort of a picture of that person. When one thing leads to another.

Unfortunately I never really have a spicy answer ready for when I get asked… although I do have a list, you know. But I guess I forget in that moment, or I am to polite. But this is definitely something I want to work on. Just give an answer they don’t expect. Like:

– Why?

– Why does it matter?

– Why do you want to know that?

or even

– I am an astronaut

– It depends. What time of the day were you thinking?

– I am a Super Hero

– I am a Super Villain

– I rob banks

– I am a hacker

– I work as a prostitute

– I am a porn star…

Dear everyone out there: I don’t care what you do. I want to know who you are and then I will either like you or not. And if I like you, I want to know more about you. And maybe then after a lot of time spending together, I might ask you what do you do. But only to get that last piece of the puzzle.

I love the way other blogs inspire me. The way they get an idea, which is already in my head, rolling and developing. How they shape it into a form or maybe how they make a little seed grow. It feels like suddenly words start shaping and forming into sentences and I feel the need to write. It’s just what Lucile De Godoy’s blog post did to me this morning.

30 thoughts on “What Do You Do?

  1. I think it might also be a lazy question. Its what we have gotten used to asking to start a conversation. There is no spontaneity when you rely on one question only to start a question. I think we should ask the question that is pertinent to the moment we are in. Something like, your sweater is a beautiful color or I love this park I don’t remember seeing you here before, do you come often? or… the possibilities could be endless if we stay in the moment. And as for your answer to the lazy question, how about “right now, enjoying sitting in the park enjoying watching my daughter” or….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! It is the lazy question. Like talking about the weather. A conversation starter… And I am with you on using what is around you to start the conversation as usually there is plenty and it might be so much more interesting. And that is what I don’t understand… We don’t need the lazy way out. There are other options…


  2. It’s one of those social-nicety, getting-to-know you questions that tells you NOTHING about a person except what they do for a job, from which you might be able to intuit what their income is. It’s taking the measure of someone you don’t know, and I find it rude, and so very very boring. So I like to shake them up a little, and change the question. I add words to the end of the question to make it more specific and answer the new question. “What do you do…”
    – in an emergency? I panic first, and then think what MacGyver would do.
    – when I have a day to myself? I read books and snoop in my teenagers’ rooms.
    – when you don’t know what to make for dinner? I check Pinterest. I found a great recipe for ropa vieja the other day.
    – for fun? Our whole family surfs, so we spend a lot of time at the beach.
    – when someone asks me what I do? Pretend I don’t understand the question.
    And then follow that up with a whole new question: What’s your favourite book ever? (or similar)

    Liked by 4 people

  3. So maybe a better question would be, “who are you?” But then they’d probably just give us their name, lol. Or maybe even, “what kind of person are you?” And then they would think we were just weird. I like the idea in one of the comments about asking what you do for fun. And I totally LOVE your list – prostitute, haha. My husband and I watched Grosse Pointe Blank the other day, in which John Cusack was a hit man. And every time someone asked him what he did for a living, he told them the truth, and they just laughed it off because they thought he was joking. Also, just wanted to say that other people’s posts constantly inspire me as well. Sometimes I copy and paste my response into a new post on my own blog and build something around it. I also like to mention the post that got me going, like you did.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s kind of like a “How about them Yankees??” type of conversation starter, used mostly when people don’t know what to say, want to be polite, and thankfully it most always turns it back around to them so they can talk about themselves which is what they really want to do! I can’t stand that question either. It’s almost as bad as “what do you drive?” Lol

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m honored! Heartfelt thanks for your words and link to my blog.
    I loved your post as well and will use many of these answers next time I get this question. πŸ˜‚
    I sometimes just say: one moment please, let me take my agenda and perhaps you can already look for a place we can sit, as this will take time. How much time do you have?
    I have always needed to make a big effort to not laugh at their shocked and surprised looks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There are a number of reasons some or all reasons may apply at once. I think that this question is asked. Generally I think it is just a standard response when talking to someone new, we are used to saying it, your both standing there, it maybe a little awkward so bam here is the icebreaker β€œso what do you do?” it is a conversation starter


    As a social pigeon hole, β€œahh that person does X, my job is better than that/Worse than that so I am better/worse than them.


    As a keeping up with the jonses frame of mind. Some people love doing things (or most of the times say things) where they did it bigger and better than you did, spent more money doing it and had more fun whilst they were there? I detest people like that. I think in some cases the β€œwhat do you do” question is to gauge income based on that persons opinion of how well paid that job is, they guage that income on the basis on how difficult it will be to keep up with them, if they buy a new car/kitchen/computer etc etc will I be able to get a bigger, better one than they can?

    I suppose the only way to counter it, to stop them in their tracks and think (or possibly even look at you funny) is to have your question as β€œSo, what kind of person are you?”

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. if this question is asked of me early in the conversation, it’s usually a way to determine common interests. a more insidious reason is to assess whether you are worth their time. after all, there are plenty of people in the world to befriend. and if you are an expat you want to cut through the chaff. which is bullshit because it takes a very long time to get past the first impressions we like to present. when someone asks me what i do, i say “nothing”. it is provocative, yes, but i found that if someone’s really interested, they get past that and start asking about who you are.


  10. Now I think I understand your last reply to a comment I made on your page about imagination, and now I’m somewhat uncomfortable with my answer to your question. Lol. Oh well, we live and we learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it is an ice breaker question to get conversation going similar to talking about the weather. Just tell them you are the CEO of ‘housegoods’ Inc. It’s a small business you run out of your home and is chock full of personality πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My usual answer to that particular question these days is, “Really?” But you did hit on something that has been interesting me more and more lately, and apparently, some of the others who have commented here also, and that is that when I comment on someone’s page, I’ll suddenly realize that with just a little fleshing out, the comment I just made, would have served admirably as an entire post. Then I realize, that if i were to do that now, it would almost sound like plagiarism, so I’m losing all this great Blog content by commenting, but if I didn’t comment, I’d never come up with this great Blog content in the first place. So is it just the few of us, or is everybody noticing this? Lol.

    Liked by 1 person

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