Why we shouldn’t be defined by a job title

Have you ever had one of those conversations? The ones that go “so what do you do for a living?“, to which you respond [Marketing Manager, Finance Manager, Head of Maths etc etc]. And then after exchanging job titles, and work small talk, the conversation is no longer fun.

Wouldn’t it be much nicer if it were easier to respond by talking about your current project, whether work-related or not? Imagine that conversation: “so, what are you working on at the moment?” “well, I’m organising [an exhibition of dog photographs at my local arts centre/a fundraising event for a local charity/a workshop for new fathers….].” Much more interesting for the conversation and also raises awareness about your event/business/new project.

I’m particularly aware of this type of conversation at the moment as I’m in a transition phase between full-time employment in marketing and self-employment working on a number of different projects. Because my self-employment portfolio isn’t yet totally defined, and because I dabble in a number of things, it’s tricky if someone asks the question in the wrong way. I often fall back on “oh, I’m freelancing in marketing” and then regret it instantly.

Even people in full-time jobs who have no intention of being self-employed might have interesting side projects that you don’t know about. They might be President of their local Rotary Club or have started a book club, or be training for a triathlon – but if all you ever ask is about their work, they’ll never get the chance to tell you.

So the next time you meet someone new, or catch up with someone you haven’t seen for a while, why don’t you ask them what they’re working on at the moment? I suspect you’ll get a more interesting conversation out of it as a result….

7 thoughts on “Why we shouldn’t be defined by a job title

  1. Interesting one Nina – I hate this too, but am equally guilty of asking people as a way to make conversation… still I usually ask if they enjoy it and that’s when you hear about secret escape plans 🙂

  2. I hate people asking “What do you do?” and meaning what job do I do. Aside from the fact that my job is not easily explained, but easily misunderstood, it’s not the most important part of my life. And when I’m not at work I much prefer to talk about things that aren’t work!

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