In the company of strangers, my friend would say that he “works in a hospital” when asked that all important question – “So, what do you do?”
He will then proceed to nail that well-practised game face all evening. That blur look which gives the impression that he is anything but a doctor.
He tells me that it was the best lesson learnt from early in his career because if he were to reveal that he is a medical doctor, he would have to spend all evening listening to folks relating their long list of ailments – imagined or otherwise – in the hope of getting free specialist advice over dinner.
“I can’t dish medical advice without proper diagnosis, you should know that,” he would complain later. I would obediently agree. I mean, what else can I say?
Hence, whenever I am caught in similar situation, I frequently say “I am a broker” in a nonplussed way with my shark-like smile for added effect. Somehow, the word “broker” inevitably conjures images of hungry rent-seeking scheming agents.
Like my doctor friend, I have learnt the hard way that to hold oneself out as an private equity investor is like being doused with honey before entering a roomful of bees. You’ll be swarmed. Transformed instantly into the life of the party. A minor celebrity. Suddenly, everyone has a business proposal or knows a friend of a friend who has one. The more opportunistic ones will persuade you to take a we-fie, before asking for your personal phone number so that they can sent you the photo (of course!) and shortly after, their business proposals.
Ideally, a person is not defined by his job title nor judged by it because work is just one of the subsets that makes up a whole personality. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that ideal world. Rant all you want and philosophize till you turn blue, the bottom line is this: your answer to that seemingly casual question -“So, what do you do?” – is like the key the real world uses to plug you on their food chain pyramid.
Occasionally, I would answer, “I am a retiree.” It would certainly guarantee a quick dismissal – after all who wants to hear about a has-been. But it is an efficient way to get rid of pushy social climbers and aggressive self-promoters. Yup, those ones who hand out business cards like Santa before dominating the conversation for the next hour; telling you how great they are, how qualified, how awesome his business is.
So, what do you do?