As an editor, you can imagine the range of responses I get when I tell people what I do. Some say it’s cool that I get paid to “blog” all day. Others assume I must be really good at reading (which I am, to be clear). And many use it as an opportunity to share the book they’re currently working on that’s “kind of a historical fiction sci-fi.”
I could act bitter when people metaphorically pat me on the head and pretend they know exactly what my job entails, but the reality is that no one can truly understand what I do on a day-to-day basis unless they’re in a similar role.
Not to mention, I’m just as guilty of incorrectly judging other careers as the people who judge mine. I recently had drinks with a chef, and all I could think to say was how neat it was that they got to eat food all day—never mind the fact that they didn’t spend their days eating the food, but making it (among doing many other things).
The point is that every job—with the exception of ones like Netflix watcher or ice cream taster (but even those must have caveats)—isn’t exactly what you think it is. Almost every single job has great parts, parts that require work and skill, and parts that could best be described as “a headache.” While you can give people a broad overview of your role, you’ll probably never be able to explain it perfectly to the people you care about.
But you can try—and you can laugh about it, too. Which is why the “What do you do?” meme started floating around Twitter. Writers, audiobook narrators, theologians, people with cool sounding or seemingly simple roles compiled some of their favorite lines in response to what they do for a living.
"What do you do?"— Julia Whelan (@justjuliawhelan) June 5, 2018
"I'm an audiobook narrator."
"Oh! People say I have a good voice. And I like to read. Well history. WWII. Does it pay? I'm lookin for a retirement gig. You done anything I woulda heard of?"
"No? Maybe listen to it."
"Oh I hate audiobooks." https://t.co/syn4uQ7BpV
"What do you do?"— Maria Guido (@mariaguido) June 5, 2018
"I'm a managing editor of a parenting site."
"Oh, you're a mommy blogger."
"I built a news team on the largest parenting site on the internet."
"Being a mommy blogger must be great. You get to stay home, right?"
“What do you do?”— Tara Isabella Burton (@NotoriousTIB) June 4, 2018
“I’m a theologian.”
“Oh. LET ME TELL YOU WHY RELIGION IS A LIE AND DUMB” https://t.co/74PzayTqZv
“What do you do?”— Jess G👀dwin (@thejessgoodwin) June 5, 2018
“I work in social media.”
“Wow you're still an intern? Aren't you like 30?” https://t.co/MdjZXTSrmb
"What do you do?"— Linda Holmes (@lindaholmes) June 5, 2018
"I'm a culture writer."
"They pay you to watch TV?"
"I mean, no. That's not the job part."
"I wish I got paid to watch TV."
"Nice work if you can get it, huh?"
"GO EAT A BEE." https://t.co/m5tvVbgeqH
“What do you do?”— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) June 5, 2018
“I’m a sportswriter.”
“You get all those free tickets?”
“Well, it’s like ...”
“Can you get me free tickets?”
“No, it’s ...”
“Can you get two for me and my brother?” https://t.co/CzGtADukFZ
These memes are not only incredibly relatable, they’re pretty eye-opening in terms of how we see each other’s work. We make assumptions, convince ourselves the grass is greener, and ultimately over-simplify something that’s probably not that simple (because if it was, why would anyone be paying this person?).
So yes, these tweets are meant to be enjoyed and shared as we all revel in our misunderstood work lives. But we can also learn a little something from them.
For one thing, we can’t assume we “get” someone else’s job or that we’re just as qualified to do it. Want to ask them questions about how they got where they are today or what their day to day looks like? Sure, go for it. But to condense all the hard work someone’s done into “Must be nice being you” or “I could do that” isn’t just unfair, it’s rude.
Plus, if we all showed as much respect and genuine interest for other’s jobs as we do our own, we could probably learn a heck of a lot from each other.