We all get asked this question and we all ask it - here in the States, at least. They don’t really ask the “what do you do” question in other countries.
We Americans ask it almost immediately upon meeting someone.
We use it as our way of getting to know more about that person, but we - subconsciously, maybe - also use it to make a decision. We decide what we think of the other person based on what they do for a living, placing them on an invisible but very present ladder of sorts.
“I’m a used car salesman.” Ok, we’ll put him down here, about midway down.
“I own a flooring company.” Got it - ok, we’re sticking you higher up there where business owners go.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom.” So - nothing. Doesn’t even make it on the ladder.
Sucks that stay-at-home-moms don’t get on the ladder, much less get their rightful spot at the very top of it.
But that’s not what I want to talk to you about.
I want to tell you how irrelevant the “ladder” is nowadays.
Things are completely different now than they were back in the day, when you and I were just tender saplings, wide-eyed and fluffy, looking up at that corporate ladder as if it were the Holy Grail, ready to reach out and make it ours.
People don’t do that anymore.
They don’t have to. Kids are dropping out of college because they started a YouTube channel as a hobby, recording themselves fishing or crafting or trying on clothes at Nordstrom after their English 101 class, and then one day they woke up and found they were making five figures.
What the wha?
Y’all. Mark has been married to his company for 23 years. He comes home every evening wiped right the hell out, turns on the TV and watches YouTube videos of guys - children, really - souping up cars or fishing in Panama, living their best life and rolling around naked in piles of money every night before bed.
The thing is, if you met any of these guys, you’d ask them what they do and they’d say they have a YouTube channel, and you’d probably mentally put them on the invisible ladder, filing them where you think their worth as a worker is.
Where would you stick them?
What is it that determines how far up or how far down the ladder you place them? Is it income? Is it the prestige (or lack of) associated with certain professions that we grew up believing (lawyers and doctors = prestige)?
All of those notions we’ve grown up believing are irrelevant nowadays.
Technology - the internet, in particular - have made it so.
People don’t have to go into an office everyday. They can be highly productive members of a corporate team while being completely location independent - sailing the world, even.
These kids coming out of college don’t have to look for a 9-to-5 anymore. They can create something all their own, making a living out of a sexy mashup of their interests and skills.
Incidentally, This goes for us older folks, too.
You really are never too old to write that book or start that blog or start recording videos of yourself building kites, if that’s your thing. There are people out there who want to read or watch whatever it is you’re putting out in the universe, so much so, they’ll even pay you for it.
It’s really an incredible time that we live in.
Remember how you were when you just got out of school, looking up longingly at that ladder?