Image credit: Anna Lopez

“So, what?” to “So, what do you do?”

I read an article recently by a career advisory specialist-type person which had a headline that was something along the lines of: What do you do? Is your job title HOT or NOT?

The premise was around certain job titles being slated for sounding dull and uninteresting, and then readers are encouraged to take on a ‘personal brand makeover’, presumably so they’ll have some guru/ninja/rockstar euphemism to come back with when they’re asked by a stranger, “What do you do?”

I’m honestly not here to lash out at the author, which is why I’ve chosen not to link to the original post, but I have to say that overall I found this idea pretty distasteful. I mean, surely it’s not exactly nice or fair to make judgements on people whose job titles don’t exude power and/or a ‘cool factor’.

I couldn’t help myself; I left this comment:

Or, we could start asking far more interesting questions about new people we meet.

I may have been a tad rude and/or borderline passive aggressive, but this idea stuck with me, which brings me to this post.

You work to live; you don’t life to work.

You’ll have heard this phrase, which I absolutely stand by. So why do people place such emphasis on their job titles and those of other people?

The last time I was asked “So, what do you do?”, without really thinking my response was “What, you mean as a job?” Now, there’s a small chance that I had partaken in a few glasses of wine and may have simply needed clarification on the question being asked, but I do remember thinking at the time, “why does this person care?”

While I don’t claim to lead the most exciting action-filled life, I’d like to think there’s a bit more to me than my job, and given the opportunity to talk about something else I’d also like to think that the conversation would be a lot more interesting.

The problem in my view is that I think a lot of people hold a large proportion of their value as human beings on things that aren’t that very human; how much money they make, how nice their house is, what car they drive, how thin/tanned/made-up they are and so on. A further problem is that we have a tendency to reflect this perception of value on other people.

I could go on a diatribe about how people generally need to start seeing the good in people and being a lot less horrible to one another — that’s a story for another day — but my point here is that clinging onto status derived from these sorts of things is ignoring the real, honest parts of ourselves that make us real, honest human beings.

When you ask interesting questions, you get interesting answers.

Okay, I get it – ‘what do you do?’ is a great icebreaker; it’s an easy go-to that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought, and most people will have an answer to it. However, I think we could all try two things to kick off a whole lot of more interesting conversations:

  1. Think about what you’re passionate about, and try to find out if the person you’re speaking to shares any of these interests.
  2. If you’re asked ‘the question’, gloss over it and start talking about what really gets you excited.

Now I realise that these recommendations sound a lot like dating advice, but there are parallels to be drawn. It’s no surprise that the article I mentioned used the hook ‘HOT or NOT?

Let’s start having some really interesting conversations!

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