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‘What do you do?’

What do you do for a living?

Do you get this question? I’m sure you do. Everyone does. My answer usually comes after a moment of thought, where I weigh up what I know about them and their potential technical knowledge against how I can describe what I do. My most common answer is, “I work with computers.”

There are so many ways to work in computers, but it’s the easiest way to explain what I do. I learnt that most people don’t even know what IT is, let alone all the possible careers within it. Many people work within IT and don’t even realise it! So how do you explain something technical to people that have absolutely no idea?

“What do I do? Well, mostly nothing. But sometimes I’m busy looking after computer network stuff. What’s a computer network? Sigh…”

“What do I do? Well, I’m a Systems Administrator at work which means I setup new users on the network and other admin-related stuff, and I fix any network-related problems that occur, or get someone else to fix them.”

“What do I do? Well, I’m a SysAdmin… yes, that’s right; I’m glad you understand!”

When you go to parties or out at social occasions, being a ‘computer specialist’ is very similar to being a doctor. Everyone then talks about their ‘problem’ in the hope that you can fix it. Unfortunately, no one actually wants to pay for the help, so I haven’t been able to turn it to my favour. Everyone wants free fixes.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Sometimes this is the same as when I’m working… but of course people don’t understand that. How do you explain that whether I’m working or at home, I’m ‘playing with my computer’? I usually talk about my interests in photography, writing, philosophy and people watching. Photography is something most people can relate to, but writing, philosophy and people watching are a little too obscure for most of them.

And if you’re just not into sports, the conversations often begin degrading from that point.

There’s a guy at work who, last year, just didn’t want to talk with me because I wasn’t into sports. He couldn’t talk about or comprehend anything other sports. I don’t miss talking to people like that.

What kind of work do YOU do? How do you describe it to others? What do you talk about when people ask you what you like doing? Please share.

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