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The politely rude question, “So, what do you do?”

Back in November I quit my job, cold turkey.

But, thankfully, I’ve worked every day since then. I’ve been working since I was 17-years-old and this was the first time I wasn’t chained to a traditional 9 to 5, desk job. Uncomfortable at times, yes, but so freeing, liberating and allowing me to explore opportunities I knew were there but didn’t have time to go after. But now with more time on my hands I’m steady working towards being my own boss and pumping full time work into the projects that I once paid half-time attention to and yes, freelancing as well.

During this “transition phase” I’ve realized something that I never really paid that much attention to: people are so interested in your job and career!

Maybe because in the past I could always answer right away when asked, “So what do you do” or “Where do you work?” it never really occurred to me that this one question is (a) asked so many times; (b) is a conversation starter; (c) sets the mood for the rest of the conversation and (d) the answer could make a lot of unemployed, self employed or people in transition, like me, very uncomfortable.

I attended a costume party several days ago and chucked it up with an older guy there over our ridiculous getups. Less than two minutes into the conversation, he goes, “So what are you, what do you do?” Derailed and taken aback, I replied with, “Huh, what do you mean?” He repeated his question and I honestly answered; “I’m a reporter, in transition.” A lady at the doctor’s office several days later, while serving me blurted out,” So are you just off today or are you on vacation?” My answer, “On vacation!” It was the truth!

I know that people mean little harm (if any) by asking this question, but it could be very offensive to someone who doesn’t have a direct answer or a job society deems unimpressive.

In my head being asked that question really asks, “Should I be talking to you right now?” “How much money do you make?” “Do we have anything in common?” “How did you get into the party?”

I get it, I get it, we all judge people, we need ways to start a dialogue and get to know people, but this and many other blogs I’ve visited believe this is the easiest way to pigeonhole people into social and economic classes that really aren’t a reflection of their life.

Their interests, their beliefs, what makes them laugh, what makes them tick, how they spent their last birthday, what are they planning for the next one, what movies interest them…not their job…define them.

That being said, the next time someone asks, “So what do you do?” I’ll simply answer, “My boyfriend!” That’ll get ’em!

Live. Love. Write.

6 Responses
  • KNB
    November 29, 2015

    This is so very true. Last year my husband and I decided that he would be a stay-at-home dad. The response he gets is usually “oh so you don’t work” when in fact he works harder than I do. Honestly he was so disheartened because he knows that is many people eyes if he is not providing financially then he is not a fit father. Society has forgotten that people are so much more than money and a title given to us by a company.

    • ianthia
      November 29, 2015

      Such a sad thing, right?! Those are the very ones trapped, lost and miserable…heading to a “job” each day that’s sucking the life out of them. I’m sure he’s happy and more in touch with his family than they are… and that’s all that matters. thank you for reading!

  • Deborah Pratt
    November 28, 2015

    Yep! I can certainly identify with this too! Thanks for giving me an answer. 🙂

  • Cardell McClam
    October 22, 2015

    So relatable. I always thought it was a very condescending question. Great writing

  • Brenda Smith
    February 10, 2015

    I am sooo feeling this post, your’re truly on target. Keep writing don’t stop.

  • Farreno
    February 8, 2015

    Great read … beautifully written!