Rarely am I at a loss for words, but ‘What line of work are you in?’ or ‘What do you do?’ always stump me. First, I spent some time thinking about how I should answer that question and had trouble summing it up into an elevator-pitch-sized sentence. Then, I started removing those type of phrases from my repertoire of ice breakers at parties or networking events and hoping people would not ask me that.
One of my hesitations in answering usually stems from the fact that I have always had multiple jobs at the same time. This week, I dabbled in real estate, did some teaching, and developed websites. While I could just pick a profession and answer it very simply and omit my other jobs, it makes me feel like I am not being truthful if they somehow see me working in that other profession. It is a silly fear and easily explainable, but I don’t want to mislead my new acquaintance or bore them with my complex resume.
After additional reflection, I learned the biggest hesitation in answering the question about what I do for a living is that I don’t want my job to define me. It was something I learned a few years ago after I had changed industries. For the previous decade, I had built a business that was named after me and was very involved in the operations. Everyone knew me as Cuda, the audio/video guy. I was proud of the business and was proud to be in that industry. However, when I left that industry and sold the business it was like I had sold my identity. I suspect it is similar to how people feel after they retire or get laid off.
So, in a effort to shift the conversation away from what I do for a living; I try to use other ice-breakers that steer the conversations to an area I am more comfortable discussing.
Here is one:
- What ice-breaker do you hope people don’t ask you at parties and why?