Hilarious! How to guess someone's job at a cocktail party.
First off, you need to get out more. For god's sake leave the couch and start pressing the flesh. No, I mean socializing...don't end up getting yourself arrested.
The point is you need to start guessing what people do while at the same time pretending to be something you're not. I'm trying to pass myself off lately as a retired covert ops specialist with some dark Gov spook organization.
Guess My Job! Here’s How
Someone who talks about ‘balance’ is probably a lawyer; ‘leverage’ a financier.
Andy Kessler, WSJ
Aug. 21, 2022 12:19 pm ET
Barbecues, cocktail parties, weddings—they’re back. Let the games begin! After chatting with someone at a party, I used to whisper to my wife, “That guy’s going to be out of a job in six months.” It annoyed her so much that I switched to, “I can name that profession in just one or two words.” You can play along.
You’re in a social scrum and someone is babbling on about who-knows-what but keeps using the word “balance,” as in “we need to find a balance.” I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that person is a lawyer. In fact, if I had a nickel for every time a lawyer says “find a balance,” I could actually afford a lawyer.
People use certain words so often that they serve as a tell about what they do for a living. And, yes, anyone who uses the word “tell” clearly plays too much poker. My ears are sensitive to word clues. I hear “leverage” in casual conversation, even if the context doesn’t involve money, and I can tell the person is in private equity or maybe real estate. Private-equity folks are usually better dressed.
It’s fun to play! Some words are giveaways. “Covers” is a restaurateur. When you hear “hands on” it’s probably a doctor or a Hollywood producer. Marketing folks leave an impression by always talking about “impressions.” Someone droning on about “bugs”? That’s either a software coder or a farmer, so check his fingernails, Sherlock. Last year, the cockiest person in the room was the startup founder, who this year is nervously whispering “help” as funding has dried up.
Financial types are easy to spot. Hear “quota” and it’s usually someone in sales. In rare instances, it might be someone in college admissions. If you also hear “holistic”—voilà, admissions. Hear “round” and unless the speaker is buying one or bragging about golf exploits, it’s probably a venture capitalist. “Deal” means investment banker or again, if shabbily dressed, a realtor. “Externalities”? Duh, an economist.
You already have enough to win this cocktail-party game, but here’s some inside scoop. Someone who asks lots of questions is either a journalist or in human resources, like a recruiter. Guess HR, unless there’s a pencil behind his ear. Someone who mentions “dangling participles” could be a teacher but is more likely an editor, probably my editor.
OK, that was all low-hanging fruit. (Orchard owner?) Others are tricky. It’s rare, but you might hear the word “power.” Hmmm. Probably a politician, but the real giveaway is if the person begins invoking “freedom,” usually in discussing policies that actually take away your freedom. If he blurts out “that’s a false dichotomy”—bingo, you’ve got him nailed.
Talk of “community” is a tip-off that someone works at a nonprofit. All right, not so hard. But subtle references to “advocates” or “true believers” signals you’re with an activist. The true tip-off is that activists are angry all the time about something, almost anything, and oh, still live with mom and dad. Activists also throw around the word “justice,” so you might have guessed judge. But no self-respecting judge says “justice” anymore—they’re lawyers, so instead they say “balance.” Too easy if you hear “intersectionality”—you’re with a collectivist geometry teacher. If you hear weasel words such as “sustainable,” “justness” or “cisexism,” a good guess would be an unemployed busybody.
It took me a long time to differentiate between consultants and corporate humps. It’s not obvious that either really does anything except attend meetings or sit on calls all day every day. But there is a difference. Consultants are always angling to get hired, so they talk in big-picture gobbledygook: transformation, paradigms, system-ness, empowerment, agility, wheelhouses or organic, actionable synergies enabling collaborative thought leadership.
On the flip side, corporate robotrons, those with no profit-and-loss responsibilities, are scared they’ll be fired tomorrow. So they talk as if they’re always in motion. They circle back, move the needle, drill down, add value, open the kimono, boil the ocean, unpack ideas, put a pin in it, get their ducks in a row, fail fast, buy in, shout out, call out and level up. Whew. They’re exhausting and really must be too important to fire.
Every once in a while, I do get stumped. Someone puts up a confusing smoke screen, like this verbatim nugget, “I work for a forward-thinking firm cultivating relationships and solutions to meet changing behaviors.” Who talks like that? No clue.
Or this guy, also verbatim: “I’ve just got lawyers working for me right now but when we come out of the ass end of this thing, we’re really going to break through the glass ceiling.” Then he winked. Anyone? The mention of lawyers probably threw off my balance. Time to level up.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.