In an interview with Wall Street Journal, Rachel Feinstick, the WSJ work and life columnist, explores the question of whether it's still socially acceptable to ask someone what they do for a living.
While some people feel that their jobs are an essential part of their identity, others don't want to be defined by their work. Feinstick suggests that it's still okay to ask about someone's job, but she also explores other ways to connect with people beyond just their professional selves. For example, she suggests leading with hobbies, family, or other parts of one's life before adding in their day job as an afterthought.
Another idea is to talk about the industry or field one works in rather than focusing on one's job title or company. Feinstick also suggests that humor can lighten the conversation and disrupt rote patterns of interaction.
While it may be difficult to break the habit of asking about someone's job during the introduction process, it's possible to shift the conversation to other topics, such as how people spend their time or what brings them joy. Ultimately, Feinstick reminds us that we're more than just our jobs and that there's more to life than just work.
• socially acceptable: something that is considered appropriate or proper by society.
• defined: to be characterized or identified as something specific.
• professional selves: the aspect of one's identity that is related to their job or profession.
• afterthought: a thought or idea that comes to mind after the fact or after something has already been said or done.
• industry: a particular field of business or economic activity.
• field: a specific area of study, profession, or industry.
• rote: characterized by routine or mechanical repetition.
• disrupt: to interrupt or change the normal course or pattern of something.
• habit: a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and often unconsciously.
• introduction process: the initial stage of meeting and getting to know someone.
• ultimately: in the end or final analysis.