Talking about work

There’s a group of people who I’ve worked with, friends, who I talk about work with but not often.

There’s a group of people I haven’t worked with who know what I do, roughly, or know the work I’m involved in, roughly, who I talk about work with.

There’s another group of people who might need my help, work-wise, who I talk about work with in extremely specific terms, people who might fall into either of the categories above. These people might be clients.

For everyone else – friends, family, friends of friends, disinterested strangers etc – I find it extremely, wrigglingly, painfully difficult to talk about my job.

There’s a pocket of people, that ‘Club of Queer Trades’/consultant/conference-pals pocket – who wear not talking about work as a badge of honour. They talk, eloquently, about projects delivered. The specifics of what was done, or the reasons for doing them, often get skimmed over.

I don’t do that very confidently, and in doing so I train people, friends, into not really asking about or understanding what I’m up to. I did it at Last.fm, I’ve done it since. It’s probably one of the major reasons I like spare time projects, and why I’ve been cranky without a significantly-sized one; I can talk about those.

Of course I can talk about work as work – at conferences, in slidedecks, in blog posts, in emails. So none of this is a problem, really. Most conversations with people I know aren’t really about work. But treating a job like a mystical, unknowable, unsharable thing is a trap, and I don’t like falling into it.