And what do you do?
Most of the time when we ask this question we’re really trying to find out how much money someone makes.
“I’m a CPA”, or “I write software”, or “I’m a schoolteacher” gives me a pretty good idea what tax bracket you might be in. I can draw a lot of conclusions about somebody with that information: what kind of car they probably drive, what sort of neighborhood they live in, maybe even what their house probably looks like.
Is that really what you want to know about someone?
What does it matter what someone does for a living? What really matters isn’t what they do, but who they are. They might make widgets all day long in a factory, but who they are is a person who dreams about changing the world. Maybe they are changing the world, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the work that they do. Maybe they’re the kindest, most understanding person in the widget factory; the person whom everyone goes to for advice. Or maybe they’re a Boy Scout troop leader, or a mother of small children, or a closet philanthropist or an amateur pilot.
None of these world-changing answer can answer the question “what do you do”.
Maybe we should start asking “what do you like to do” instead. Or “tell me about yourself”.