Since I have been unemployed there is one question I dread, that makes me fear meeting new people even more because I know they're going to ask 'So what do you do'. It's the second question anyone asks after 'what's your name?'.
I can see it's difficult as it seems to be the only way to open a conversation with someone new. I don't think people realise how difficult it is for me (and maybe others) to answer it. I feel awkward saying that I'm unemployed at the moment because unemployment and benefits have a stigma for many people in this country. If I say I'm unemployed it leads to the question 'what do you usually do then?'. 'Gosh! it's been such a long time I don't know. I went to college and studied acting but I wouldn't call myself an actress. I used to work in a shop but that was ages ago now'. Not the best conversation starter.
Sometimes I panic and take the brutal attack where i go into all the details about my mental health but apart from that scaring people off I don't want to start every meeting by talking about that.
I've tried the avoiding technique by just saying 'I don't do anything' and then staying quiet but that just makes me sound cold and you can't create conversation that way.
When meeting someone you haven't seen in a while and they say 'so what have you been up to then?' Is even worse. I try hard to think of something interesting but usually it's just nothing. It's shaming having to say you've been doing nothing.
I don't like the way people are defined by what job they do. There are many people who are employed but don't particularly like talking about there job, it's just a job, so why do we ask?
It's hard because the question 'so what do you do then?' is such a natural way to start a conversation, even I say it. It's hard to think what to put there instead. Maybe something like 'so what are you interested in?'.
I've managed to get my answer down to 'I can't work at the moment as I've been ill' and then when they ask what I normally do I just say 'I'm not sure yet but I studied acting at college and am really interested in the arts'. If they ask more about my illness I oblige. It seems to work ok but there would be so much less dread and fear of the question if it was 'So what makes you happy?'.