Don’t Ask Me What I Do For a Living


You’re at a social gathering and inevitably the question comes up: “What do you do?”

In some parts of the world, this is a rude question to ask because it compels the questioner to pass judgement. They may look down upon you, as in: “Oh, he’s only a clerk. Not very smart.” Or, the questioner may be intimidated: “She’s a programmer – out of my league.”

Judgement is built into the game of wanting to know what others do for a living.

But there are other issues associated with this archaic question.

Today, many people hold a variety of jobs or freelance positions to make ends meet. For them, answering the question could take a while. I have a friend who responds: “I have 5 jobs” – a response that is met with blank stares.

Millions are unemployed, so the question creates embarrassment and helps to further erode self-esteem. You may know people who avoid social gatherings just so they can avoid that question, and give the answer: “nothing”.

We are much more than our jobs.

In years gone by, a person was identified almost completely by their job.

Now – in an age when people change jobs many times, and there is a much greater emphasis on the meaning of life – we need to be seen for our passions, our character and our intentions, more than what we do to earn a paycheck.

Perhaps the best question to ask is not “What do you do?” but rather, “Who are you?”

For many of us, a job is simply a way to earn money. It may have little to do with who we are. Our true purpose in life – our dreams – may be completely removed from our current vocation.

And so – asking someone what they do is increasingly pointless.

You are unique, with many facets. Your desires, interests and life activities go well beyond your job. The next time someone asks, “What do you do?” – make your job the last thing you address. “I love playing with my kids, go golfing whenever I can, volunteer for the local food bank and oh yes…I’m also a brain surgeon.”

It’s not about what we do for money.  It’s about who we are as a person.

7 thoughts on “Don’t Ask Me What I Do For a Living

  1. If ever any time I might ask WHAT is your background? I have always been enthused to learn people’s history, interests, passions, et cetera. A throw back to when I was assisting people with their resumes.
    I figure cannot help people progress in a new direction till they know where it might be.
    People excite, motivate and regenerate me and my own passions.
    No matter their background… We ALL are important and everyone has half dozen stories to share ❤… That is ALL the fun getting to know people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “What are you working on?”
    “What drives you?”
    “What are you here for?”
    “How would you express yourself?”

    Not all these are appropriate for all conversations, but get to the core of communicating – sharing information 2 ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Highfalutin nonsense. Try asking ‘who are you’ next time you meet someone at a party, see what reaction you get, I dare you! If you fear being judged by your occupation, that says more about you than it does the person who is curious enough to want to know how you spend the majority of your waking life. For 10-12 hours a day, what you do IS who you are. If YOU don’t like it, change it.


  4. When I am asked what I do and say that I am retired almost always the reply is, Lucky you. Well, luck has little to do with my retirement. I never had high paying jobs or a great career but I worked for 52 years and saved some money. Wasn’t always easy. Then I inherited some money. Bummer that! I would rather have my brother alive and well. With that said I don’t know what I would say if asked, Who are you? Maybe I should think of a quick response just in case.

    Liked by 1 person

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