Recently I’ve been thinking about how I would answer the question of what I do for a living, and to be as honest and plain about it as I can. My kids have not really inquired about this in any detail – they just know Daddy goes to “work”. Were they to ask me one day I’d tell them I do three things: read, write and talk. I believe those three activities describes any office job at its most basic level. Because it really irritates me when people I’ve just met ask me “what do you do?”, I’m planning to give them the above response next time. In my humble opinion we tend to over-identify with our jobs – they become a substitute for who you really are. Maybe people are just too lazy or too scared to think more deeply about what it is they do on a daily basis that will describe them holistically as a person. The other day a guy asked me what I do right after asking my name. I put on a puzzled look and told him I don’t know what he means. I do all kinds of things. It was a short conversation.
I’ve worked jobs ranging from investment banking to the public service, in industrial open plan offices and in huge ceremonial individual ones. But I’ve always just done those three simple things.
An office environment is odd. You have a bunch of people who see each other every day although they aren’t necessarily friends (often quite the opposite) and they have to treat each other with a level of formality and respect not found among family or chosen friends. The hierarchy is another oddity that gets me. There are secretaries and executives all reading, writing and speaking alongside each other or among themselves, but the higher-ups have the final say over what is being written, read or spoken about. I like having coffee with the secretaries (or PAs as they sometimes prefer being called) because their personal lives are so much more interesting than those higher-ups whose jobs are their personal lives. As colleagues go, the best you can ask for are people who don’t take themselves or their jobs too seriously. I’ve worked with people who actually believed they were running the world (or doing something similarly important) from their little cubicles! These are the people you want to avoid. Can anyone blame me for battling to stay sober in this odd office universe?