I'm always sensitive to how men feel being asked this question right away by women. I don't ask, and I'm much more interested in learning other things about a man before knowing his occupation.
Imagine you've just met a woman, briefly discuss the weather and she asks, "So, what do you do for a living?"
I find men do this very often and I'd like to understand why, from a man's perspective. Is it that it's very important to you, or that you don't know what else to ask, or is it that you think you'll learn about her more quickly, by knowing? If so, would you be stereotyping? Has anyone made certain assumptions about you that were incorrect, based on occupational stereotypes?
Examples: Lawyers are dishonest; Investment bankers are ruthless; models are airheads; artists are flaky; construction workers are not that smart; accountants are boring..
Women are welcome to comment! I am just curious to know the motive behind men asking this question right away.
*I'm adding to this, as I'm getting a lot of "Just curious" replies which I don't believe addresses the question. Why are you curious? What will it tell you, that you need to know, in the first few seconds of meeting someone?
*Thank you all for your replies!
I think both sexes do this somewhere along the way. I find it interesting if the initial question leads to finding out how a person got into their job, what it took etc. The stories behind the choice often show more about the person that the actual way they make a living now. I have met people who have flipped their initial jobs into something else; People who have been in a career all their lives because they love it; People who are working hard and getting no where. I do get asked that question a lot...I think mainly because I don't fit the stereotype of what people think an accountant is...usually when I tell a person, I end up picking up the tab and calculating the tip (JUST KIDDING!)...it really doesn't matter to me as long as there are other things that make us compatible. Love reading everybody's views on this as well...
Because it could lead to any of the following:
1) A similar profession thus useful networking.
2) An opportunity for her thus not hesitating in asking me mine because I'm passionate about it.
3) Good indicator of a person's education (Yes I prefer educated people in a sense)
As far as stereotypes are concerned, never found them very helpful except anyone who's been in sales would have a high threshold for tolerating people.
I can only answer for myself, and the answer might not be that helpful. It depends on the woman. Sometimes it's small talk. There's a lull in the conversation on a date, so I ask questions. If it's someone I'll be looking at as a potential partner, the question may be more important. First, I want to see what she says. I'm looking for intelligence and ambition, and passion for what she does. Or maybe just something in common. Or hoping she'll like it so much that she geeks out about it - I think women's minds are beautiful when they're kind of lost in discussing something they're excited about. It can also be used as a measure of health. If someone is 38, working retail on an entry level, or tends to get fired a lot, that's not the level of professionalism or career ambition I'm looking to partner with.
If you just meet someone, the topics available for conversation are limited. This question opens up some avenues for conversation. That's about it. If you find you are both involved in similar or related fields, this can make the first meeting more interesting.
I’m sure glad I am not in the market as I would probably be someone to ask that question. It does tell a person a lot about the other person as they spend a large proportion of their time doing whatever their occupation is. I guess you could ask about hobbies or tastes in food or whatever but if something like this is a no-no I would be afraid to ask anything.
I think men's identities are often built around their occupation. sometimes that could lead to the question because ain't everybody's....jk.... or they're thinking about money, or they're genuinely curious, or desperately non-creative conversationalists....idk.
The occupation itself may not define the person, but it may indicate the amount of ambition, may show their interests (if they are passionate about the work), and if they'll have time for a guy. If she works a ton or has irregular hours beyond reason, then tjatay not work out so well.
To address your direct lead-off question: My reason for asking a woman what she does for a living would come from a genuine curiosity about it. Would I ask that question right out of the gate? Probably not. But it would come up. I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask someone what their occupation is. A person's occupation can speak volumes to their passion (if they are so fortunate as to be doing work they are passionate about). So this is a great way to learn about them and what moves and motivates them. I understand your distaste of having that question asked if it is being used as some sort of status barometer in order to pass judgment. That's just plain wrong, IMHO.
I'm guessing it partially comes down to how much time and effort you have put into what you do for a living. Some types of jobs take an enormous amount of focus and preparation to even get started. Nobody accidentally becomes a lawyer or research psychologist. I had a woman tell me about 10 years ago that she thought people who worked with their hands were more self aware than people who worked with their mind all day. I thought she was just trying to flatter me (I work in a steel shop) but when I mentioned it to my boss, he agreed. I'd never given it any thought till then.
Most people have some passion for how they make money. It's an easy conversation starter with total strangers even when dating isn't an option.
Some people like judging and classifying others. If I think that's what's going on, I claim to be an entrepreneur and enjoy the eye rolls.
I've had dates who were likely burnt by free loaders quickly ask about my job on the first date, I get that and my response varies depending on how the questions are asked and how I think the date is going.
For people who really pay attention there are other things to talk about. People's clothes, their reactions...can tell a lot about them. I often have random books, so that's an easy conversation starter that doesn't involve qualifying my character based on income.
I think that question is more attributed to our cultural norms, than anything else. Just like asking about the weather or how someone's day went. We ask out of habit, not for the answer, but for the human interaction.
I prefer to ask women if they're happy, what motivates them to get out of bed, and if they know they're beautiful.
I don't normally ask about work until it comes up in regular conversation. I guess I just don't care that much? I don't feel as if my work defines who I am.
I'd much rather get her talking about something she is passionate about. That makes for a more interesting and informative conversation in my opinion. If that happens to be her job, she'll bring it up long before I will.
Personally it is because I am not great at small talk. I can't think of many other questions I can ask which have an answer worthy of discussion (ie suitable small talk topics) that are less personal.
What question would you ask someone you knew nothing about? Alternative topic suggestions might be quite useful.
I ask for multiple reasons. On a basic level I like to know if they have a steady job. Plain and simple. I more importantly like to know if they love their job. We spend so much of our lives at our jobs and it would be a shame if they hated it. Knowing their profession and whether or not they love it can lead to other topics of conversation. I do not see the question as loaded, but I can see where people would.