The one thing that you can almost guarantee will get asked and answered when meeting someone new, regardless of the circumstances or venue for the meeting, is the question of what you do. It is treated as a central question, a means to gauge where the conversation goes from there. How can we then help but to equate what we do to earn a living with who we are?
I spent a good chunk of my adult life as a stay at home mom. That answer garnered glazed eyes or surreptitious eye darts around the room to find a way out of the conversation. Surely the listener was going to be bored to tears with stories of diaper duty and play dates.
I found the same looks and attitude during my job search months. A little bit of desperation was thrown in because they probably thought I would hit them up for some sort of assistance.
If you take careers off the discussion table – (and of course politics and religion too) there is still a whole world of topics to discuss, to connect over and about. I got a job once because of my love of reading and reverence for books. I’ve met plenty of people and participated in volunteer activities because of it as well.
Our identities are an amalgam of so many things – family, hobbies, where we live, and also what we do for a living – plus so much more. Strike up a conversation and it rarely takes long to find something to connect over. I’ve been me for a good while now and meeting people through my different phases – stay at home mom, career, job search, volunteer – I’m still learning the art of conversation and matching my stories to the situation. I rarely ask the ‘what do you do’ question, frankly. It seems rather limiting in leading the conversation.
As a wise woman that I know regularly says, you are not your job search. Spending a few summer moments thinking about your larger identity might be an interesting exercise.
Beth Anne Reed has a background in Customer Relations, Process & Project Management and a deep interest in Written Communications.
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