So, what do you do?

You have no idea how frequently the topic of occupation comes up in casual conversation until you have no occupation to speak of. I have increasingly come to dread meeting new people because the question of what I do for a living will undoubtedly come up within the first few seconds of dialogue.  The typical tête-à-tête usually goes as follows:

Me: Hi, I’m Shiko.

Idiotic Stranger: Hi, I’m (insert idiotic stranger’s name here), nice to meet you. How do you know so-and-so?

Me: Oh, we went to school together in Kenya, how about you?

Idiotic Stranger: blah, blah, blah.

Me: And do you live here in the city? (By this time my mind is frantically thinking of ways to steer this conversation away from the inevitable employment query. I could care less where this guy lives. All I want is to retreat from this conversation with some measure of dignity still intact. I’m trying to think of another question before he does but my stupid brain, having been dormant all day after another reality TV marathon, will not cooperate. Beads of sweat have already begun cropping up all over my forehead and the only thing going through my head is Oh Crap, oh crap…)

Idiotic Stranger: So, what do you do?

Me: (CRAP! Now, how should I answer this? I could say that I do nothing and laugh it off but that might just make him feel awkward. I could give him my life story in a manner that evokes a sympathetic and slightly condescending response like, ‘I’m sure you’ll get back on your feet again.’ Yuck. Or I could use the pregnancy and pretend that this was the plan all along — because I’m just so awesomely maternal like that. In the midst of my panic and despair, I usually mumble a variation of the following reply…)

Well, I’m a recent casualty of the economic crisis and with a baby on the way, I’ve decided (Decided? Yeah, right.) to take a break from the workforce. How about you?

Idiotic Stranger: I’m the V.P. of Marketing at XYZ.

Me: (Screw you! But instead I say…) That’s great. I love their stuff!

Why does the job question come up so soon during introductions? What does what I DO have to do with who I AM? Granted, there are some occupations that can give some indication of personality type e.g. lawyer, nun, fashion designer. But even those are just stereotypes; I’m quite positive that there are non-confrontational lawyers, bitchy nuns and boring fashion designers. Majority of people have obscure administrative jobs that do nothing to reflect their personalities. Yes, I’m talking to you Ms. Database Manager. If anything, all this question does is allow people to estimate which income bracket someone else most likely fits into…which is fine if you’re trying to decide who to invite to your baby shower (ka-ching! Just kidding! Kind of.) but otherwise you’re better off asking what someone’s favorite clothing brand is. My point being that the, ‘So, what do you do?’ question should not be one of the first questions to ask when getting to know an individual because it is quite ineffective as a character assessment tool.

Yes, my recent transition out of the workforce is probably making me touchier about this than I should be. Maybe it will get better when I can say ‘I’m a housewife’ in a less defensive/amused tone (right now, depending on my frame of mind, I either say it like I’m DARING someone to call me a loser or like I’m about to burst into laughter). Whatever the case might be, at this moment I am convinced that ‘So what do you do?’ is the dumbest question. Ever.


  1. Silvia Njeri said,

    August 11, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    So what DO you do Shiko? Haha. This is great, enjoying reading your blog 🙂 I reckon this question is just part of the conversation starter protocol… The one that has come to irritate me is where are you from ORIGINALLY? cos i detect an accent? where? and you came here all by yourself? wow! (le sigh!)

    • August 11, 2010 at 7:48 pm

      Lol @ ‘and you came here all by yourself?’ usually followed up by ‘wow, your english is sooooo good!’. Aaaaah, the joys of being a foreigner! Thanks for the love girl!

      • August 12, 2010 at 2:37 am

        Try being asked ‘where are you from originally’ in your own country! Just because i faked an accent so you can understand my safety briefing & happen to drive planes apparently means i’m not kenyan!
        Such quifs!

  2. Waboi said,

    August 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

    A tad touchy but I totally understand! I have to be honest when I ask ‘the question’ I really could care less of what their response is, usually I’ve pretty much figured them out at hello. Its a courtesy thing!

    • August 16, 2010 at 11:28 am

      Hi Waboi! Wow, you’ve figured them out at hello? Pretty damn impressive! Like Silvia (comment above) said, I guess it’s just a pointless conversation filler! But one that I have grown increasingly tired of.

  3. labelle said,

    August 14, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Love your blog! No need to be embarrassed (if you are, that is) about not having a job right now… happens to the best of us. Besides, motherhood and being a housewife is TWO jobs in itself. A lot of us would love to be in your position…. loving hubby and baby on the way. Bliss! 🙂

    • August 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

      Thanks labelle! You are absolutely right and one of my major goals is to learn to embrace and love this new life. Having people like you remind me that this is a blessing in disguise is exactly what I need on the days when I’m feeling completely useless! Thanks again!

  4. Dutta said,

    August 20, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Lol shiko, I think infact I suggest you write a book, ever thought of writting articles for a magazine look into it. Your insightful. I love it. I totally agree is the dumbest question question ever, So what if I’m a dash dash or dash, would that make me more interesting if I hold a big status, really NO, want you to get to know me better, Really. I also think its just so robotic, a uniform way of holding a conversation when meeting someone for the first time.


    • August 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

      Thank you so much for your support Dutta! I’m so glad that the posts are resonating with you! Have a great weekend as well!

  5. Roberta said,

    August 24, 2010 at 2:31 am

    You will not know me, Junior Kanu is a mutual friend. He posted a link to your blog & I followed. You are brilliant!
    The ‘what do you do?’ question. A few months ago, when I was doing nothing, absolutely nothing, you should have seen the look on people’s faces when I answer their question truthfully. Not in school, not working, not married or preparing for a wedding, not pregnant and busy working hand in hand with God creating new life, NOTHING! I’d smile to myself and think ‘Yeah, you got no file that fits my category? Oh too bad.’

    • August 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

      Lol! I know right? They are so confused as to where to go next in the conversation! Nice to ‘meet’ you Roberta!

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