Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What do you do? Expectations and Answering that question

When you're a jewelry designer, you're always "on." At the doctor's office, the bank, anywhere someone might ask, "What do you do?" As soon as you say, "I design jewelry," they're going to look at what jewelry you're wearing. That's where their attention goes. (Ladies, remember lines like, "Hey, my eyes are up here!" Well it's a little different if you want them to look at your necklace!)

Most of the time, I want to be wearing jewelry that I designed and made myself. I'm proud of it and would like to talk about it. I'd love to hear what other people are looking for. If I'm not wearing any jewelry that day or am wearing other artists' pieces, people have wondered why! In the past, I sometimes chose to answer the "What do you do?" question with what I did as an avocation vs my vocation.

Other professions are like this, always expected to be 'on,' and some to a greater extent. I was once at a party with a doctor who was repeatedly asked by others about different medical conditions. Comedians are expected to be funny. We might evaluate what fashion designers are wearing. Are artists who make and sell wearable art, fashion of any type our own walking billboards? Sure.

I'd guess there are people who prefer not to say what they do for a living when asked. Maybe it's due to responses they've received in the past. Do you work for a certain political party and don't want to get into a debate? I've had some people tell me where they work, but not exactly what they do.

Those who work at home and those who work outside the home sometimes can develop a rivalry, for a lack of a better way of putting it. I'm not sure why. Rarely does what one person has chosen to do have anything at all to do with what another is doing or is it any kind of judgment of what someone else is doing. Comparing and personalizing are real bugaboos.

I used to have a job with an ever-changing title, one of which was
Administrative Assistant. Interestingly enough, people didn't expect anything specific from my appearance or my personality when I announced that was what I did for a living. There were other ramifications that could sometimes come from saying that was what I did.

Is the answer to the question, "What do you do?" the same as the answer to the questions, "Who are you?" "How would you define yourself, your identity?" This is one reason I started answering the "What do you do" question with my avocation instead of my vocation. At the time, it said more about my goals, how I spent my time and who I was.
What I did during the week was just a way to pay the bills and fund my passion.

Peggy Seeger's
Lady, What Do You Do All Day? is on her CD, Peggy Seeger: The Folkways Years, 1955-1992 - Songs Of Love And Politics. The song itself which helps to explain some of what Stay-At-Home Moms (SAHMs) do during the day, can be downloaded in MP3 format for $0.99 from Amazon.com.

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