Periodic musings of a former corporate executive who is between gigs.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What do you do?

Not working can be tough. It's difficult not to feel sorry for yourself even if you received a nice severance package or your exit was your idea. There's just something ingrained in the American psyche about our work lives. When you're between jobs, you can feel as if you don't have anything to add to a conversation among friends.

I'm sure you've heard this old saying --- "Europeans work to live and Americans live to work". Sadly, it tends to be true. Having traveled extensively throughout Europe and other parts of the world, I have noticed that when you meet a non-American and ask "What do you do?", he or she usually replies with something along the lines of "I love to ski" or "I spend my weekends watching football matches." They will rarely divulge their job title or employers until much later in a conversation, if at all.

Americans, on the other hand, always seem to answer the "What do you do?" question with a work-related response. They say "I'm a nurse" or "I manage the XYZ department of Company 123". We don't get into discussing personal matters until after the work/career discussion occurs. My experience has been that this continues to be the case long past an initial meeting. Here in America, we always want to talk about work.

Why do we care so much about what we do from 9-5? Why is it ingrained in us to always talk about that one particular topic? Isn't there more to life than one's job? If not, shouldn't there be? And would talking about our dreams and passions make us more well-rounded?

Being between jobs is an excellent time to think about adopting a more healthy outlook on life. If you were one of those individuals who always talked about work in the past, you now have the perfect excuse to set a good example and talk about other things. Tell your friends about the guitar lessons you are taking. Or that you've recently started a garden. Or that you love to dance. These are the really enriching parts of our lives, not what we do from 9-5.

Try it. I'll bet that you both learn something new about the other person!

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