Today's economy

I’m not what you think I do

By Kevin Press,

Comments (1)

Brighter Life blogger Dave Dineen wrote yesterday about how he dislikes being asked what he does for a living. I do, too, even though I love my job.

I’m not what you think I do - Kevin PressDave Dineen posted a great piece yesterday called Here’s the question I dread most, now I’m retired. I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that the question in question is what he does for a living.

“I’m willing to provide a satisfactory answer — I’m just not that able,” he wrote. “As a recent retiree, I’ve tried to answer the question, but I never feel my answer satisfies people.”

I don’t much like the question either. I get that it’s a simple conversation starter. The problem is that in many cases, we have deeply held assumptions about what the answer means. When Dave tells people he’s retired, they jump to conclusions about how much time he spends on cruise ships and/or his living room couch. (Dave is more interesting than either of those answers, by the way.)

When I tell people what I do, I’m often left with a similarly uneasy feeling. Some hear financial services and picture an oversized expense account (which my boss would find greatly amusing). Others — when I explain that I lead a research team that does customer and general consumer research — simply smile politely and scan the room for someone more interesting (which I find greatly amusing).

The truth is we have misperceptions about a lot of professions, in much the same way we misunderstand retirement. We think we know what they’re about, and what those jobs say about the people who do them. We revert to stereotypes too easily. It’s shortsighted and more than a little bit silly.

There are so many more interesting conversation starters:

  • What are you reading?
  • Bought any good albums lately?
  • Where’s your family from?
  • What city do you wish you lived in?

If nothing else, these’ll save you living through another painful story about casual Friday fashion crimes.

By the way, I’m reading Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie. I’m hooked on Live Today, by Derrick Hodge, my family is from Scotland and I will never, ever get NYC out of my system.

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Ron on

Hi, I retired when I was 63 and it lasted about 4 months. I was bored. That was 4 years ago.
I had the opportunity to work part-time 8 – 10 days a month in security.
Since January I have worked as a jail guard part-time and it has been a most interesting job choice!
I will continue to work until my wife decides to retire then we hope to travel.
When people ask what I do I reply that I am semi-retired.

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