“so, what do you do?”

A friend recently commented that his least favorite thing about visiting DC was that everyone’s first question is always “What do you do?” He interpreted this as a way for people to determine his social status and judge him accordingly. He very well might be right in this assumption.

But admittedly, it’s almost always one of the first questions out of my mouth when I meet a new person. First, it gives us a jumping off point for further conversation- if I find out that I’m speaking to a fellow recruiter, I can ask them their opinion on job interviewers demanding interviewee’s Facebook passwords. Or whether they think Pinterest is the new place for job seekers.

But I think what really prompts me to ask the question is that I assume {perhaps often incorrectly} that others enjoy discussing work as much as I do. I’ve always said I never want to be the person at a cocktail party who can’t say “I love my job!” but I suppose not everyone strives for that goal.

Lest someone think I’m a career snob, I have a solution. I’ve now started saying “What do you do…for fun?” Really throws ’em off!

What do you think? Is asking “What do you do?” curiosity or snobbery? 

P.S. I distinctly remember a night out in DC when an intern proudly told me and a friend that he worked at the DOD. I think he was disappointed that we weren’t blown away. But after four years in DC {and living a few blocks from the White House our freshmen year}, it was hard for titles {unless if it was POTUS} to wow us.

Source: awelltraveledwoman.tumblr.com via Carrie on Pinterest


3 thoughts on ““so, what do you do?”

  1. i think the only caveat about asking people what they do is the risk that they are unemployed. It could be a sore spot for them and it can get awkward fast. You could do a quick recovery about asking about their last position and what kind of jobs they are looking for though.

    • So true! Didn’t think of that. And good recovery tactic 🙂
      Do you have a standard “jumping off point” question that you generally ask? Obviously it’s not always needed haha

  2. I think it’s perfectly fine to ask what someone does. If anything, the topsy-turvy job market might create for some interesting answers from people who are having to become more creative to either find work or market themselves.

    The “assuming people love their job” part’s a little different though. Just speaking from my own personal experience, there’s not much to like about my job. But by holding down a job I don’t enjoy, I feel that I’ve got a good appreciation for what does and doesn’t work for me. I’m also working on righting that ship and finding something better suited to my priorities. So I’m comfortable with those conversations but I can understand how others might get have trouble navigating those types of questions.

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