I think I may be the only person in the world who doesn't care what other people do to make money and almost never bring up work as cocktail conversation. While I get that "so what do you do" can be an ice breaker, think about it. You're at happy hours or a party or some social function to have fun. Why bring work into it when work is often stressful and about the last thing we want to think about outside of the office.
As a writer, I don't like talking about my career with non-writers. I find that telling someone that I'm a writer evokes three responses: 1) "Oh, I'd like to write a book"; 2) "What are you working on?"; and 3) "How do you get these magazines to publish you?" This tires me because 1) everybody wants to write a book; 2) I never work on one project at a time and are almost always subjects that make the average person glaze over; and 3) marketing is tough and very difficult to explain to anyone who doesn't do this for a living. It is the very last thing I want to discuss while sipping a Blue Moon.
I had to endure this at a social event last Friday night. And by a person I know. We had not spoken in years, this person and I, but she decided to drill me with questions 2 and 3. I explained that I don't like to talk about work on Friday nights, but she insisted. "You should be proud of yourself!" she said. "You should be bragging about how successful you are. You're a writer!"
Well, I was always a writer. Now I'm just making an income from a skill I have and the degree I earned. I am proud of myself for starting a business from scratch and making it float during these tough economic times. But brag about it? Really? Do other people brag about their jobs?
I changed the subject with that second best cocktail ice breaker. "Want to see a picture of my grandkid?" As I pulled out the pictures, the woman suddenly saw another old friend and said she'd talk to me later.
And I sipped my Blue Moon in peace.