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When someone asks you what you do for work, how do you answer?

By Ben Kubicek,

A common thing to ask someone when you first meet is: what do you do for work? It is an interesting question that can often dictate where the conversation goes from there. Sometimes I think we should come up with creative job titles just to surprise people when they ask us what we do for a living. What if we said our job title was: Senior Department Lead IV Technical Architect? Sounds pretty good, but it doesn’t exactly say what we do at work. I supposed we could call ourselves a Senior Boffin (you will have to look it up).

It can be difficult to properly describe what we do at work in a job title. I would guess a number of us play multiple roles and have a lot of different responsibilities at our jobs. We might manage servers, write code, create reports, manage ETL or datamarts, etc. How do we even begin to try to describe these things to someone we just met, let alone have a job title that describes them?

I would guess some of us just answer with: I work with computers, or I work with databases. Then if someone shows some interest, we dive into more detail and hope we don’t bore them to pieces. Personally, I do find it intriguing when I meet someone and they say they work with computers. It really could mean anything. They could be help desk, or tech support. They might work with networks. Or they could work with databases, write code, etc. So I guess for me a more general answer, causes me to want to know more. I suppose it is not very impressive to say you work with computers, but honestly actual job titles probably don’t impress anyone either. I know mine doesn’t.

I know a number of you have DBA in your title. So do you use that when someone asks what you do for work? I can see how someone who isn’t technical could get confused. “Did they say MBA? I was asking what they did for work not what degree they have.” Or perhaps if you are from the U.S. they would ask themselves, “NBA, they seem a little short for that type of work.”

I guess in the end we are sharing a little bit of ourselves when we tell someone what we do for work. So what best describes what you do for work? What job title would you give if someone asked you what your profession was today?

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