How Do I Answer the ‘Do You Work?’ Question?


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Miscellaneous | Posted on 01-08-2014


The other day I was chatting with a woman in the locker room after yoga class, and she asked me if I worked. A simple question, but it was the first time I was asked it since giving up my successful SEO consulting business a few months ago. I guess my answer should have simply been “no” but that seemed weird to say.

When my kids were very young and I didn’t work (in a “real job”), I was comfortably able to answer with “I am a mom at home.” And once I started my business, it was easy to say that I owned my own company and worked from home.

But what about now?

Technically I should probably have just told the woman at the gym that I was retired. But that label is also uncomfortable. It sounds too permanent and makes me feel old. Isn’t retirement something you do in your late 60’s when you have shitloads of money and don’t need or want to work anymore? I’m only 52 and pretty sure I still have a few good working years in me. Plus, I’m certainly not rich. While my husband earns a decent salary in his job, we do still have a son in college we’re paying for. Plus we have one daughter’s wedding coming up in April. Thankfully we can afford these expenses, yet I feel like I should be contributing to them more as I always have in the past.

What I mean to say is that while I’m no longer working in my previous profession,  I’m not through with working in general. I do want to eventually be doing something productive that can also contribute to the family in a monetary sense, I just don’t know what that is yet! And because I have that desire, it feels awkward telling people that I am currently not working.

What I really am is in transition, but that takes too much explaining for casual locker room conversation. So to the woman at the gym, I said that I wasn’t working at the moment and left it at that.

But are my only choices really that I’m old and rich or I’m unemployed and can’t find a job?


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How about just saying you’re in between jobs at the moment but in a good way? Clarifying that it’s in a good way helps so that people know it’s a good thing and that you weren’t fired, laid off, or something yucky.

That seems short and sweet, yes? Just an idea…

Yeah Shirley, you’re right. I just need to get that “elevator pitch” down better so I’m not caught off guard next time!

Yeah, you’ll figure it out. That is just part of the transition. Just thought I’d toss out that possibility. 🙂

Can’t you just say you’re a blogger?

I thought of that, but I don’t really feel like a blogger (yet). And I certainly don’t make any money from it!

Been there- done that! I have been semi-retired for several years but still run a part time business, which really has become full time. Selling that to a family member at the end of the month- so semi-retiring again.

But while I have struggled with the same response, I think that we as women sometimes feel we owe an explanation to whoever asks.

I say stand proud! You have mostly retired from/as a successful business owner, and are now exploring options for personal, family, and professional balance. What a great spot to be in!

Have you noticed the dates on your blog are really off!?

Oh it’s using the European way of showing dates. I fixed it yesterday for the posts, but looks like I have to go edit the comment template as well. Thanks for letting me know!

Retirement isn’t synonymous with being old anymore and it never had anything to do with being rich.

Do you remember when you were a little uncomfortable with calling yourself President of your company?

Don’t get hung up on it and don’t worry about what other people think.

Question: Do you work?
Answer: Nope, not right now! I was lucky enough to retire from my business that I ran for many years and am looking forward to my next opportunity. Whatever that might be.

^^^ GREAT response!

My wife is the one that has the big successful career. I stay at home with my kids, 6 and 10yrs old. I do own a small business where I work from home. However we don’t rely on my income and I only take on projects during the school year, for something to do while the kids are in school.
Because I don’t really make a lot of money building furniture I always felt uncomfortable telling people I own my own business opposed to saying I am a stay at home dad. That was until one day someone asked me if I worked and my daughter was standing right next to me and she answered for me.
“He’s a woodworker and has one of the prettiest websites where you can see his work.”
I guess it is all in your perspective.

Yep, makes sense, Brian! (And there’s nothing wrong with being “just” a stay at home dad either!)

Hi Jill, you could say that you are a trust fund kid of the universe. My friend said this to me this week and I loved it! You are doing what your soul/spirit is calling you to do and are trusting and expecting to be abundantly provided for. And so it is. Very happy for you.

Ha! That’s an interesting way of putting it, thanks!

It’s a good point to bring up. And, it is for me an ever-changing answer according to mood, who I’m talking to and me second-guessing their interests.

Best title for me so far, yet woefully unacceptable amongst archetypical accountants, government employees and those with six sets of letters after their name denoting membership/status/qualification or similar, is Expert Generalist – but only those who are open to it and have their sense of humor set on “generous” at that moment, get it.

So why is this also tricky for me? Well, I am, was/or might be again in the next few minutes, an Entrepreneur, Writer, Artist, Inventor, Designer, Marketer, Speaker, Co-founder, usability advisor, economics commenter, movie licensing old-hand, the list goes on!

Even if I name the project at the fore of usage of waking hours each day….there are others bubbling up or under.

I forgot the most important part — three simple words to add to the end.

Question: Do you work?
Answer: Nope, not right now! I was lucky enough to retire from my business that I ran for many years and am looking forward to my next opportunity. Whatever that might be.

LOL yes, turns out she was retired as well 🙂