Photo by Emily Morter on Unsplash

If you’ve ever been introduced to someone, the next question that follows the introduction is “What do you do for a living?” or “So what do you do?”

I’ve been asked it and I’ve asked it of others.

It’s so common a question that we barely have to think about it before it comes tumbling out of our mouths.

But I’ll tell you a secret — I hate the question

But what about the person being asked?

For those people, they dread the question! They give short and concise answers hoping that the conversation will be steered in another direction. Sure, it helps pay the bills but that’s not who they are.

I’ve come to realize that this question is full of judgment. It’s not our intention to be judgmental but how many times have we:

  • Done a mental calculation of the kind of salary they’re making
  • Wondered where they are on the corporate ladder
  • Associated them as being kind-hearted, pushy, boring based on their job or the industry they work in

We don’t mean to do it but we’re so programmed to think about these things that our brains just automatically go there and, for me anyway, it doesn’t feel good.

“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. It’s not what you see, it’s how you look at it. It’s not how your life is, it’s how you live it.” — Unknown

This question is why it’s so scary to change our careers

Here are some ridiculous assumptions society has taught us:

  • an artist must be broke
  • ALL lawyers are pushy and assertive
  • accountants must be boring and a numbers geek (and a tax genius)
  • if you’re looking to change your career, you’re lost

We have been conditioned to respect the job titles and salaries so much more than the actual person.

WE ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN OUR JOB TITLES

That’s the stuff that matters.

The challenge is to cut this habit loose. Stop asking this “obligatory” question. It doesn’t tell us anything meaningful about the person you’re getting to know.

Instead, try asking these 2 (3) questions instead:

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO FOR FUN?

Maybe they’re:
— Accounting by day and ninja-ing by night;
— A lawyer who volunteers at an animal shelter and have fostered hundreds of animals during their lifetime
— An IT Specialist who’s travelled to all 195 countries

The point is we can’t and shouldn’t judge someone from their job title and what they do during the day.

If you want to find a connection with someone, you won’t find it talking about work.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR JOB & WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT?

The takeaway shouldn’t be what they do, it’s why they do it that matters.

_________________________________________________________________

QUESTION OUR QUESTIONS

We ask this question in order to get to know someone, not to judge them and if we’re always asking the same questions, we will always get the same answers.

Questions give us insight into the minds of others and to ourselves. If we learn to ask the right questions, we will find a plethora of answers that will teach us so much more about the person behind the title.

By changing our questioning, we can change how we see others and how we see the world.

Originally published at possiblepursuits.com on March 3, 2018.

Living life imperfectly and as creatively as possible.

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