What do you do for a living?

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 20, 2007, 2:26 PM | comments: 12

A blog post from Gonch expresses some annoyance on his part when people ask what he does for a living. To help you fill in the blanks, he's a stay-at-home dad who gets to do all the shit that most people do in their free time.

Would I trade places with him for that freedom? In an f'ing heartbeat! Imagine being there to watch your kids grow up in a way that your parents probably couldn't. You get up and go to sleep mostly when you feel like it. Your hobbies can very nearly be full-time pursuits. And if you run a little Web site, you may even make a couple of bucks from it. Which part of that is a problem?

Gonch gets the impression that people ask him for the purpose of judging him. While I'm sure that there is a segment of the population that would in fact do this, I think it's a minority. Talking about what you do, that's a great starting point for getting to know someone. It has nothing to do with being a measure of success. Some pretentious professions may be a little heavier in this area (i.e., doctors, just ask Cath), but most people aren't like that.

For example, in my dating experience this year, it comes up pretty early. I can sympathize with Gonch's positiong somewhat, because my eHarmony profile was slugged as, "Internet programmer, wannabe film maker, coach, author," because I didn't want to be pigeonholed. But then, you also find out some pretty interesting things when you go a little deeper. You learn quickly that a current job has little to do with who a person really is.


Comments

Carrie, July 20, 2007, 7:01 PM #

Yeah, I think you give people too much credit on this one, Jeff. I don't believe our culture has evolved as much as you think. People size each other up all the time and asking about how we make a living is just one way it is done.

If someone asks me what I do for a living it tells them next to nothing about who I am. And I would be hard pressed to think of even a handful of people in my life for which what they do to make money in some way speaks to who they are. And furthermore, if you lead off with me by asking what I do and I don't know you, guess what?... you've bored me already. I don't want to tell my professional story to someone I don't know. I want to make friends, not spill my resume.

On an aside, I think Gonch kicks ass. His work demonstrates his support of his wife's out-of-the-home profession and his commitment to his kids. That's awesome!

Jeff, July 20, 2007, 7:09 PM #

Ironic that someone like me, who is frequently annoyed by people, also gives them credit. :)

But also, I think maybe some of his post felt like he had to defend himself before he was even being attacked, as if to somehow admit that what he did wasn't good enough. And that's so not rock-n-roll. Fuck the man, because he just wants to fuck you.

Carrie, July 20, 2007, 7:24 PM #

First off, Gonch is entitled to think whatever he thinks and it doesn't change his rock-n-roll status. But I guess I am coming in in support of his position, because if asking me what I do tells you little about who I am... then why are you asking me? We can go no where from there except to subjective opinion.

Neuski, July 20, 2007, 7:29 PM #

Why do I ask people what they do? Because "Nice weather we're having" is an even worse conversation starting point.

Jeff, July 20, 2007, 7:33 PM #

EXACTLY! That's what I was getting at. People have interesting stories to tell, and at least that question isn't so personal that it makes you uncomfortable.

Carrie, July 20, 2007, 7:51 PM #

Well, Ty, I would just start a conversation with you about your Crocs. ;)

JRY13SP, July 20, 2007, 8:29 PM #

I'm with Carrie. Every time someone asks me what I do, and I tell them that I work for a telemarketing firm, you should see the faces they make. I then have to quantify the statement by saying that I'm in mid-level management and not actually making phone calls, and also that I love my job.

Gonch, July 20, 2007, 8:29 PM #

Sorry for the dumb quotes, but I wanted to reply to specific points:

Jeff:
"Gonch gets the impression that people ask him for the purpose of judging him. While I'm sure that there is a segment of the population that would in fact do this, I think it's a minority. Some pretentious professions may be a little heavier in this area (i.e., doctors, just ask Cath), but most people aren't like that."

My experiences have been almost exactly the opposite. Most people are like that. I think it's a majority.

Jeff:
"Talking about what you do, that's a great starting point for getting to know someone. It has nothing to do with being a measure of success."

Yeah, but my reply over on my blog explains why I think we're talking on different levels here. I'm not exactly at a place in life where I'm meeting people to 'get to know them' - chit chat is chit chat, but it leads to very different places depending on the situation/intentions. In a dating or friendship setting it can open the door to other things. In professional or formal settings, it's a quick sizing up of someone you couldn't care less about.

Carrie:
"If someone asks me what I do for a living it tells them next to nothing about who I am. And I would be hard pressed to think of even a handful of people in my life for which what they do to make money in some way speaks to who they are."

Exactly the point I was hoping to make. I do think a lot of people take this as a quick answer or summary, not just a jumping off point. Knowing nothing else, you're going to form very different impressions of people based on the answer:

Brain Surgeon
Wal-Mart Stocker
Grease Monkey
Tax Auditor
Artist
Homemaker
Porn Star

I'm sure each profession conjured up a specific image complete with expectations. Hell, it does for me and I'm against the whole thing. To me it's one of the worst solo questions to ask someone you want to know something about.

Jeff:
"But also, I think maybe some of his post felt like he had to defend himself before he was even being attacked, as if to somehow admit that what he did wasn't good enough. And that's so not rock-n-roll. Fuck the man, because he just wants to fuck you."

Ouch. Denouncing the rock-n-roll cred!

You know, I was able to maintain that for most of my life, but in just the last year or three things are evolving in my life. It's not always just about me. I came to BeastBuzz in 2004 with the wack-ass hair and two bitches in tow. :)

But I have kids in school now and when dad walks in with the metal mohawk, his kids get looked at differently. That's not fair to them. It's no coincedence that my 'going legit' happened right in sync with my daughter hitting first grade. Techers, PTA, extracurricular stuff - the bias existed and still exists. 'Middle class dad' Gonch instantly erases those stigmas for the kids.

Secondly, as my wife furthers her career there's more and more contact with the 'higher-ups' of the corporate world. Yes, it's the man. Yes, fuck the man...but, the man holds the power. Sometimes you have to play the game for your own benefit. I feel that more than ever with the corporate culture of the company she's with now...the trade off is that our income has never been higher.

I'm playing the game for the benefit of all of us.

Tyler:
"Why do I ask people what they do? Because "Nice weather we're having" is an even worse"

Well, second worst is better than worst, I suppose.

I'm so socially unaccepable that I've actually started conversations with, "Did you know Huey Lewis supposedly has a 10-inch cock?"

That's interesting conversation fodder and a great opportunity to judge someone's response. :)

Jeff, July 20, 2007, 9:05 PM #

Well maybe it makes up for his shortcomings as a musician. :)

Gonch, July 20, 2007, 9:46 PM #

Huey pwns us all. :)

Catherine, July 20, 2007, 9:53 PM #

dude I knew there was a reason I loved that band!!!!

Eric, July 21, 2007, 5:37 PM #

I have seen the movie Short Cuts (Robert Altman early 90s) and we all get a chance to see Huey's Lewis. Alas it appears that the rumors are true. ;)


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