So, what do you do for a living?
It’s often one of the first questions we get asked, or that we ask others, when meeting someone for the first time. I think “What’s your name?” or some form of that might be the only question that is more common. Most of the time it’s easy to answer: “I’m a teacher/accountant/carpenter.” Nice and succinct. Even if people don’t know the ins and outs of your job, they get the gist of it.
That’s the opposite of my experience and that of many of my colleagues. Filling out forms where you have to list your job can be a challenge, as it just doesn’t fit into one of those little check boxes or drop-down lists. When answering that inevitable question, it just doesn’t roll off the tongue in a concise way, where someone actually knows what the heck I’m talking about.
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So, how do I answer this common question? To be honest, I think it is probably different every time. I could tell you my job title (insert your blank stare back here). I could tell you where I work. That’s a little better, but not everyone has heard of the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The fact is that my answer to the question, “So, what do you do for a living?” is a lot like this rambling blog post. It is rarely, if ever, short. As a general rule, it goes something like this: I tell people who I work for, ask if they have heard of us and I then try to provide a brief description of what it is that NCC does and why it is important.
That usually gets me one of two responses. The first, which is not actually spoken but is my attempt at translating the person’s facial expression and body language: “I was just trying to make small talk or know what box to check on this form.” Awkward! The second option is a little more encouraging. It is one of genuine curiosity and excitement and usually leads to lots of follow-up questions. Some are even shocked to find out that such a career even exists. These are the types of interactions that encourage me to give the prolonged, awkward responses to the question, all in hopes of sparking someone’s curiosity and motivating them to get involved with conservation in some way.
So, what do I do for a living? I get to work for the best conservation charity in the country. I get to see the impact of my work on protecting valuable and at-risk habitat. I get to spend time in beautiful natural areas with no one around, and I get paid to do it. And I get to work with awesome people who are all devoted to conservation and teamwork. It’s a pretty good gig!