How to Talk about Your Job, without Talking about Your Job

Posted on Thursday, Apr 16, 2020

Have you ever wanted a job where the answer to “What do you do for a living?” is “I’m sorry, that’s classified”? Classified, sensitive, and proprietary information play a vital role in policy, especially in relating agencies and contractors. In a city where relationships, meals, and conversation often start with the question “What did you do at work today?”, it can be hard to answer when you work with sensitive and proprietary information. Here are three work-related topics to talk about when you can’t talk about work:

1. The commute. As someone who enjoys people watching, the DC metro is home to some of the best. One of my favorite past times, while people watching, is creating stories for some of the people I see. As my schedule started to become more regular, I started having “regulars” on my metro car. I would think up stories of where they worked and what their interests were, some were likely possibilities and others were farfetched. When there were big changes for my regulars (e.g. They missed the 8:24AM train, they had a friend on today’s commute, or their dress code was significantly different), my friends were updated over dinner.

2. Lunch. In a city filled with some of the best restaurants, I had the opportunity to explore a lot of local spots during my lunch hour. I tried every coffee shop within two blocks of the office, a handful of sandwich shops, and countless local places. From asking for suggestions around the office to becoming a proficient Yelp user, lunch became one of my favorite planning events and things to share at the end of the day.

3. The issues. While discussing specifics about your project or area of work is out of play, talking about the issue at large is often a good way to learn more about the problem your working on, as well as learn other perspectives. Often, my project was geared toward solving a current problem and the first steps I would take in addressing it was researching the issue. This would involve quite a few Google searches and reading a lot about the basics on public websites. The basics could range from technologies currently on the market to policies that have shaped the need for a solution. Often this research would leave me with questions, completely unrelated to my project, that made for good dinner conversation and “What if” games.
Classified, sensitive, and proprietary information is vital in protecting the people it is gathered and developed to serve. While working closely with this information may be a big part of your workday, there are quite a few other “dinner conversation worthy” parts to a DC workday.

Charlotte Burke
Bayfirst Solutions LLC
Washington, D.C. | spring 2020