What do you do?

You often hear cute stories about how couples met in a coffee shop. Well, sadly this isn’t one of those stories. I was, however in a coffee shop the other day and a girl did sit down beside me and we starting talking. It began with me helping her plug the power cord into the outlet for her laptop and then the conversation went on to what we were each working on at 8pm.

And then it happened, she asked me “What do you do?”

Now, I have to backtrack a bit to Mexico 2007 when I read the New York Times bestseller 4-hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I’m big-time paraphrasing here since it has been about 3 years since I’ve read it. But essentially, Ferris makes states he doesn’t define himself by what he “does” for a living, since what he does is simply a means to finance his leisure time. He travels, he dances, he spends a lot of his time doing things he wants to do for fun (hence the 4-hour workweek). If I remember correctly, if someone asks him “What do you do?”, he instead answers what he likes to do for fun and if they give him a blank look, so be it.

So, back to the coffee shop, when she asked me the question, it took me by surprise because I really hadn’t given it much thought, even though maybe I should have. So what came out was, “travelling, working on personal projects and spending time with my family and friends.” However, I’m pretty sure she heard, “blah, blah, blah, I’m unemployed, blah, blah, blah”. I then, in turned asked her what she did and she gave me what essentially what must be the profile on her resume. And, I than asked her what she does for fun and she went on about how busy she is with work and doesn’t have time for “fun” these days.

So, to recap, she probably thought I was a underachiever or worse, which is not the case and I thought she was way too involved with her work (even though that may not be the case). Anyways, to make a long story short, the conversation soon ended and we went about the business of working on our laptops.

It got me thinking, what do I do or what defines me? And this is what I’ve come up with so far. I don’t judge myself by what I do for a living. Maybe I used to a bit, but with the experiences and lessons I’ve learned over the last few years with regards to how companies treat their employees, I now realize there is more to life than how you get your paycheck. And based on those experiences, it’s correct to assume that everyone figures that out for themselves at various points in their lives. So, I decided to test out some hypotheticals.

Let’s try this again…

  • Girl – Hi there, what do you do?
  • Me – I work in sports management and specialize in marketing, retail and planning international sporting events. And what do you do?
  • Analysis – Not bad I guess, but other than the assumption that I have an interest in sports, I don’t feel like this defines me at all.

Let’s try this version…

  • Girl – Hi there, what do you do?
  • Me – Well, recently, I’ve driven across Canada and the United States, spent a couple of weeks in Maui, I write a food blog and I’m training for a 10k or 1/2 marathon as I enjoy some down time after being able to save a few dollars while working for the Olympics. How about you?
  • Analysis – Well, to me that sounds better, more compelling and more like me. The bonus is that there are lots of things in there for follow-up comments, like, “yea, I’ve been trying to get into running too” or “a food blog, that’s cool!”

I suppose based on the audience and situation both answers work. I guess the point is, don’t necessarily let what you do for a living define you. It’s easy to be consumed by your job and for some of us, it’s a huge part of who we are (especially entrepreneurs) and that’s ok, but we’re all so much more than what we do to pay for the mortgage and groceries.

And by being more than just your job, who knows, it may even get you a date with the girl and you too can have your very own coffee shop story.

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5 Comments

Filed under 4-Hour Workweek, Career, Job, Tim Ferriss

5 responses to “What do you do?

  1. I would imagine that at least a part of the disconnect is the gradual change in the type of workforce we’ve got in 2010. More and more people are not bound by an 8-5 “job”.

    Another part of the disconnect has got to be the fact that even if you don’t have a traditional job, you could be doing lots of things at once, vs a lot of the same one thing.

    I guess it’s analogous to the difference between being a polygamist – and a serial monogamist.

    No wonder the conversation stopped!

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      Definitely, 5 years ago, I would have described myself more like my resume, but you’re right, like Dylan said, the times they are a changin’

  2. What a great post. I have given this topic a lot lately. When I lost my job in 2008 I felt like I had lost my identity. This is so ingrained in our culture. I hate it when the first thing somebody asks me at a party is “what do you do?”. In many countries in Europe, this is considered weird, or even downright rude (France comes to mind). With my new career in career coaching, I’m even more aware of how utterly we define ourselves by our “jobs”. Thankfully the world of work is now moving towards recognizing/integrating personal goals, interests and ambitions.

  3. Amber

    I stumbled on this post via facebook and I have to say that it was perfect timing. I was just crying over the fact that I dont have a full time job and that I dont feel worthy or good enough to start something I love to do because I dont have a degree in it or ‘paid’ experience and the dread that no one will take me seriously. I wish more people took your stance when it comes to how they view people. I always feel insignificant that I dont have all the professional accomplishments of most of my piers/friends (though most are 6+ years my senior). It is so true that you are defined more by who you are as a person, on the inside, than whatever ladder you have climbed at work, how many zeros are on your paycheck, what names you can drop, or the location of your employment (Im thinking of Capitol Hill in my geographical area) especially in a city like DC where the name of your graduate school and number of degrees matter more than your goodness. People in DC define and judged you by what you do for a living rather than what you do outside of the work place. It should not be that way.

    I know you wrote this a while ago and I am just now seeing it but it is perfect timing for me. Ill start viewing myself and other people this way, even if no one else does. 🙂

    • Tastes Better With Friends

      I’m glad my post could help try and put things in perspective for you! You will find what you want to do, i’m 100% confident about that. good luck:)

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