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Top 10 Ways to Answer the Question: What Do You Do?

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Around this time last year, I wrote a post about how hard it was to answer the dreaded questions about what I do for a living when talking to family and friends during the holidays. It didn’t take long to realize that I wasn’t the only who dreads this question, based on the many comments.

To provide you with some holiday ammunition or just a little holiday humor, here are a few of my favorite stories from the comments last year.

Deanna Zandt:

“I often try to make a joke first, it takes the weird edge off for some reason.

Them: So what do you do?
Me: I don’t know…
Them: What?
Me: I don’t know. I get up in the morning, and there’s a laptop there, and I sit at it and type things… [drift off]
Them: Um…
Me: I’m just kidding. I’m a consultant who does online strategy and builds web sites. It’s a weird job and it’s a blast.”

Steve Robillard:

“Me: ‘I am a consultant, I work mostly with higher ed.’

them: ‘Oh, so you work for yourself, I wish I could do that. I would work so much less. It must be great.’

Me: ‘Yeah except every time I try to call in sick I get a busy signal.'”


“‘Must be nice to get to sit in front of a computer all day and surf the web.’

‘Yeah, I used to have to commute to an office to do that, but it’s much better now.'”

Travis Chillemi:

My least favorite goes like this:

Them: ‘What do you do?’
Me: ‘I am a web designer.’
Them: ‘Oh! My dentist also does web design. He/She is really good with Frontpage and stuff. He/She even has their own web site. It has something to do with Geocities…’
Me: ‘Yeah. I do dental work on the side, too. I even have my own drill and chair.’
Them: ‘Huh?'”

Taylor Brooks:

“Knowing that the conversation is probably doomed for awkwardness from the jump, I just tell people I’m in the adult film business or a drug dealer. At least you can control (or attempt) to control the awkwardness.”

Jason Glaspey:

“I just tell people that I make the internets.”

Amber Case:

“My entire family asks me to teach them search engine optimization. I want to wear a T-shirt that says ‘No, I will not optimize your web site!'”


“I usually just say ‘I’m a computer programmer.’ It usually scares them off of any other questions. If I get too deep, their eyes glaze over.”


“I do the internets voodoo!”


“When I get the glazed-over look, I just say I’m a part-time rodeo clown/psychologist. I’m in marketing, so I’m not actually lyin’…”

What are your favorite answers to the question: What do you do?

Photo by Flickr user Ed Yourdon used under Creative Commons

12 Responses to “Top 10 Ways to Answer the Question: What Do You Do?”

  1. I’m a computer programmer. I work for Emergilent Technologies doing windows apps, flex apps, and dotnet framework enterprise level apps, and applications for transcriptionists and typists. I do it from home.

  2. This really is a difficult question to answer because most people aren’t that technical and won’t follow you at all. You almost always have say something easy to understand, sometimes using a joke.

    In most cases people like it when you’re interested in THEM, and they can’t wait to talk about themselves when someone’s genuinely interested. Since I AM interested in hearing more about them, it makes perfect sense to get the conversation back to THEM as quickly as possible. They’ll forget the technical stuff and think of you as simply a computer or tech guy. The next time you see them you’ll probably hear: “you’re into computers, right?” or something like that.