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.”