I attended a function last week at which I knew very few people. As an introvert this is not the most comfortable situation for me, but it also carries the risk of the dreaded question
‘What do you do for work?’
I get it, it’s a nice way to be polite and express an interest in someone else, and an easy way to figure out ‘who they are’, except that it’s not…
The short answer to the dreaded question for me is ‘I’m not currently working’. My regular answer is ‘I have two young children so I’m a stay at home mum at the moment, but my background is in teaching’ because I feel the need to give my existence some credibility.
Though if you ask me that question, and I give you that answer, I’ve hardly painted a picture of who I actually am. It annoys me that we measure people by their financial contribution to the world.
If the question were ‘what keeps you busy?’ or ‘what are your interests?’, I might tell you about the voluntary work I do, what I’m currently studying, the side hustle project I have going. I might tell you that I have a passion for sustainability and a love of reading, writing, gardening, making things and going down the rabbit hole of learning new things. These things barely fit in a neat little box, but you’d have a better idea of who I am.
(On a side note, if you like to have your finger in a million different pies like I do, did you know there’s a proper word to describe people like us? Mulipotentialite. Learn more here)
As I mentioned before, I’m introverted in nature so I’m probably not going to blurt all that out next time the question comes up, but I’m going to work on not reciprocating with the same question. I’m going to test out some different questions when meeting new people. Could I challenge you to do the same?
Here are a few alternatives I’m going to test out:
‘What keeps you busy?’
‘What are you most passionate about?’
‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’
‘What’s something interesting you’ve done recently?’
‘What are your hobbies?’
You might even like to be upfront about what you’re doing. You could explain:
‘I’m trying to get out of the habit of asking people what they do for work, and finding different ways to get to know them. So what’s the most recent book you’ve read?’
Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have a straight answer to any of those questions either, but it’s guaranteed to be a more interesting answer than ‘I’m not working at the moment’.
If you find yourself asking the work question (after all it’s a bit of a societal habit) maybe you could back it up with one of the above questions to round it out.
And if you find yourself on the receiving end of the work question, maybe just ignore it and tell them all the other cool stuff you do instead! Haha.
So there’s my community service announcement for the week. Please feel free to resume with your passions / volunteering / hobbies / side hustles / employment / interests / studying.