If you've ever been forced to make small talk with a stranger, you know the topic of work will come up. When it does, there are only two options.
- The person doesn't understand what you do
- The person doesn't understand what you do, but wants you to do something similar for free.
Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. If you're at a professional conference, people tend to understand what you do, because they do something similar. Right now, Twitter is having fun with these conversations. They are so relatable.
"What do you do?"-- Eric Jr. (@TwiTati) June 5, 2018
"Oh, so, you work with computers?"
"My computer is broken, can you fix it?"
"I don't work with hard..."
"I have a warranty but it'd be nice if you took a look"
Now, if you asked someone to explain the difference between hardware and software they probably could, but when faced with the sudden opportunity to get some free work, we tend to lose our minds.
"What do you do?"-- Beth Jacobsen (@teacherathrt) June 5, 2018
"I'm a teacher."
"So you get long breaks and summers off!"
"Well, actually, I'm planning and taking..."
"I want to get paid while I lie by the pool."
"Well, summers are for taking classes, planning for..."
"I babysat when I was in college. I can be a teacher."
This, of course, is a job we praises in public, but apparently think is super easy when we're one on one with a teacher.
"What do you do?"-- Potsnob (@nm_potsnob) June 5, 2018
"I work in medical cannabis."
"Ya got any samples?"
"No that's not h..."
"I grew weed in college, you should hire me."
"Well we ar..."
"Got any samples? By the way names Dave."
That one, of course, needs no explanation, and must be super tiring.
"What do you do?"-- Craig (@Mizzoute) June 5, 2018
"I'm a meteorologist."
"Must be nice to get paid to be wrong all the time"
"Ha! I've never heard that one..."
"Is it going to rain at 5 pm a week from Thursday?"
And the bad jokes. Seriously, people, we've heard the jokes about our professions before. Of course, this is all fun and games, but when people within your business don't understand what you do, it can cause huge problems. "We can cut that position because she just prints up documents. Any temp can do that." But no one stops to think just how those documents get created.
Often, when people get frustrated with the "slow" and "lazy" neighboring department who never seem to pull their own weight, it's because there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what goes on behind the scenes.
No, payroll can't just cut you a check right now for back pay you are owed because your manager didn't put in the raise you were supposed to get 6 months ago. They can't just do that on your word.
This is one of the reasons why rotational assignments and cross-training are far more valuable than just having back up for when someone is on vacation or sick. If you understand what someone really does, you can work with them to help, or have patience when it takes a long time.