So what do you do?

So what do you do? The eternal question that we cannot escape from being asked by others. At parties, in trains, in marriages, and in fact where ever we go. Doesn’t matter in which part of the world you live. ‘So what do you do’ is a question that I really started hating from the last year or so. If I have to borrow the punchline from a mobile operator’s advertisement in India, I would say: Wherever you go this question follows you.

In fact, sometimes, I feel that the trouble is with me. I do not have an occupation as of now to give a convincing answer. I mean not a convincing answer to the questioner, but convincing myself in the first place. I cannot say I am an entrepreneur, as I strongly believe I am not anywhere near to being called one. I cannot say I am a freelance-web-developer because that is not my full time profession anymore. So with blogging. So with writing. So with reading and anyway I have never met someone who said ‘I am a reader.’

Well, I understand that it is essential to know what other people do when we are interacting with them for the first time. But, is it not possible to talk to someone without knowing what that person does? If that person wants to tell us, he will tell us anyway even if we do not ask.

Let’s say, you are interacting with a person for the first time and you have been into conversation for quite sometime now without knowing what he does. You have no prejudice to judge him according to his profession because you do not know what he does. Now, suddenly, for example you come to know he is a lawyer. Most of the times, most of us start judging whatever he speaks based on the fact that he is a lawyer. I think that is inevitable.

The exact same words said by two people from different professions can be sometimes interpreted differently if you know their professions before.

The problem is that we cannot give an evasive answer to this question. If you say I do business. Then comes the question: what sort of business do you do? Well if you say ‘I do nothing,’  you are mistaken to be a lazy earthworm. You need to give or you are expected to give a specific answer, though there is no guarantee that further questions will not come. Well, even if I say something as specific like as Software Engineer, Lecturer, Doctor, Lawyer and so on. Yet, there will be questions that start with where, what kind of and which and how much you earn.

I have been through embarrassing situations in the recent years when people asked me this question, especially with a touch of sarcasm. I made it a point a not to ask this question unless it is absolutely essential to the communication. I usually ask this question when I am sure that the other person wont feel embarrassed by it. In few situations it is essential to know what the other person does.

Ask me ‘how do you do’ and I would certainly reply ‘I am doing fine and thank you and how do you do’. But, ask me ‘what do you do,’ I have a no answer now. I hope I can give an answer, may be, after an year or two.

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  1. Krishna
    Posted July 23, 2009 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    So what do you do? I hope what we do doesn’t define who we are. I can relate to what you say in this article as I was in the same state some time ago. Don’t worry about sarcasm as unfortunately that has become part and parcel of our society.

    I really enjoyed reading this thought provoking article. Keep writing such great articles.

    • Posted July 23, 2009 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I am really happy that you enjoyed this article.

  2. Posted July 24, 2009 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    This question reminds me constantly , with conviction and conscience, that human being is a social animal and also a social thrust.

  3. Posted July 26, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    The efforts put in, to write this article are appreciable. I enjoyed 2nd paragraph the most.

  4. Dan
    Posted August 2, 2009 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    I hate the “what do you do” question… I end up asking it myself but that’s not really what I’m asking… I don’t care what they do to make money, what I’m trying to ask is “tell me what interests you” or “what gets you excited”. I know the question only rally works with some people; as most people do a job they don’t particularly care for and then your friendly question becomes a real conversation stopper and you end up alienating someone you are trying to be friendly with…

    Does anyone have any alternative questions you can ask at that moment in the conversation?

    Good article btw :)

    • Posted August 2, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      Welcome to my blog. Good to see your thoughts.

      Alternative question, I am not sure.

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