So, What Do You Do?

Connected Consultant

This is the question that I dread more than any other over the holidays, which is saying quite a bit, since my vegan diet also tends to generate another set of awkward questions.

During the rest of the year, my life is filled mostly with other technology workers and freelancers who easily understand what I do for a living. However, the holidays can be a different story when I’m faced with people who know little about what it means to be a web worker.

Over the past few years, I’ve held a number of jobs involving various types of web work. While at Intel, I managed teams of people spread out over several states. I’ve telecommuted from Portland to a company in California. I’ve managed online communities of people with members located around the world. Currently, I work out of my house and coffee shops as an online community and social media consultant.

Here are a few of the scenarios I have encountered as a result of the “What do you do?” question:

Scenario 1: The goof off
Me: I work for Company X managing their online community.
Them: Never heard of Company X. Where is the office?
Me: In California.
Them: Are you moving to California?
Me: No, I work out of my home office over the phone and email mostly.
Them: Cool, I wish I had a job where I could goof off all day.
Me: Sigh

Scenario 2: I can help you get a “real” job
Me: I’m a freelance consultant helping companies with online communities & social media strategies.
Them: Oh, so you’re between jobs. I have a friend over at Sprockets, Inc. He might be able to find you a real job.
Me: Sigh

Scenario 3: Avoidance
Me: I work with computers.
Them: Eyes glazed over
Me: Sigh (subject change)
Them: Me, too
Me: Great! (Safe to continue conversation without running away screaming).

I suspect that I’m not the only telecommuter or freelancer dreading this question.

What creative ways have you found to response to the question? What is your funniest, “What do you do?” story?

Photo used with permission from Aaron Hockley.