Friday, May 29, 2009


Every time my daughter asks me what exactly is it that I do for a living, I breathe deeply before I answer. What exactly do I do? My job is not exactly as clearly defined as being a cop, a teacher, a fireman or a nurse. What the heck do I do for a living?

I finally came up with a definition that is the best I can think of. I am a provider of information. I provide others with information they need to do their jobs and to assess whether they have been doing a good job. That's a simple as it gets.

I sometimes wish I had a more tangible job, something where the results of my hard labor existed in the physical world as opposed to a Powerpoint presentation or an spreadsheet. Is that a middle age cliché?


  1. This is a very interesting post, and particularly timely. I just read a piece in the NY Times Magazine last weekend that you might want to check out about the value of manual labor, "The Case for Working With Your Hands". There's something very pure and rewarding about having something tangible to show for your work. I've had the same problem in describing what I do for a living. It's hard to explain a job that has to do with managing relationships and talking a lot. Anyway, here's a link to the article:

    I think I'm going to have encourage my daughters to learn to do something with their hands, something that will earn them a living if/when their knowledge jobs go away.

  2. Thanks for sharing that article. I think there's a lot of people that are pondering the same thing as our jobs become more scarce.

    I love to cook, and no professional accomplishment gives me as much joy as making a family dinner that everybody enjoys.

  3. This is probably part of why I enjoy working in my yard so much. I can look over the yard at the end of the day, see a difference, and say, "I did that. With my own hands." When people ask me what I do, I say, "Freelance graphics design." If pushed for details, it sort of starts to fall apart. I create designs that I get paid a commission for allowing a company to use on their products, along with a few hundred other people doing the same thing, plus I can be hired privately to do design that I will not retain the rights to... with an agreement that I am allowed to use the designs as examples of my work.

    It doesn't sound like a "real" job to most people. I love what I do, but most folks seem to see it as me sitting around doodling and waiting for someone to buy it from me. It's time consuming, and requires that I keep up with current trends and advancements in digital art software. I have to be my own advertising department, artist, "brainstorm" person, customer support, and the person who makes the work schedule. It's hard work, whether I make five bucks of five hundred.

    Mowing the yard and growing vegetables, though... You can look at that and easily see what I've done. And I know I have a lot of other skills that could become more viable at some point. Sadly, for now, they're skills that were once a necessity but are now seen as luxury items... handmade toys, homemade herbal soap and lip balm, etc. People aren't looking for someone who makes herbal soap when they feel a financial crunch and can buy soap at Wal-Mart.

  4. It may be that it's a midlife issue for us, women in particular. I've been wondering this for some time now. I too love to garden, to dabble with paints and paper art, to play in the kitchen. But I don't think I could make a living doing this. Or could I? How do I live the second half of my life more meaningfully? How do I still make a living and provide for my kids' futures if I don't want to do the "usual"? Hmmm....too many imponderables. You've made us think!