Imagine you meet a pretty potential lady at a bar, party, or another place where you start talking with strangers. Inevitably, following the string of getting-to-know you questions, she asks, “What do you do?” You tell her. Then there’s a pause. You gauge the look on her face: Should you tell her you’re really an actor —- you just wait tables at the Olive Garden for extra cash? Defend your career as an euthanasia provider at the local kill shelter? Humbly say, “Yeah, I have so much money from inventing bladeless fans, I don’t know what to do with it all”? Or should you change the subject as quickly as possible?
So what is she thinking? We went on a mission to help you figure it out. Because, of course, reactions vary from person to person, we compiled a sample of women’s initial opinions about a guy, based on some popular fields of work. The 25 women in the sample range in age from 19 to 30, live everywhere from New York to San Francisco and even Saul Paolo, Brazil (Oi!), and have jobs at restaurants, publishing houses, financial offices, City Hall, and more. We’ve pulled highlights from the responses, and a summarized reaction for each.
Note: Nearly all of the women who replied pointed out this was hard to do, and their opinions all depend on the person (read: hotness) and the circumstance (also read: asshole-ness). But perhaps this list will give you some insight the next time you attempt to describe what you do:
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Smart and driven — maybe he’ll help me be a better person.” ... “Ooh, Richie Rich!” ... “Please let him be interesting enough to actually like.”
General consensus: Even though it’s not the 1960s, our mothers still always hope we’ll marry a doctor or a lawyer—for good reasons. We know you’re smart, ambitious for getting through that much medical school, and either wealthy or drowning in student loans and on your way to making a shit ton of money. We also know, however, that this mere label doesn’t make the perfect man: “He probably doesn’t have enough time for a real relationship,” one respondent says.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “You’re rich, but probably a douche.” ... “Owns nice suits.” ... “Aggressive and amazing in bed.”
General consensus: Yes, the other half of our mothers’ wish was to wed a lawyer. But, unlike a doctor, many women aren’t instantly impressed with this career, so cut the legal jargon. We automatically assume you like to argue—and like to get your way. We can envision seeing you day-to-day might be a constant, difficult battle, even if you two are deciding what restaurant to hit for a date. That can be sexy, and also manically frustrating. Show that you can be easygoing, and you can let someone else win every once in a while.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Rich and ambitious!” ... “Big corporation might be the end of the conversation. An entrepreneur? Keep talking...” ... “You hate your career...”
General consensus: You’re independent and dollar-bill signs dance in your head. We’ll wonder, though: Does he actually like what he does, or is it just about the cash? Explaining you’re into what you’re doing — and not just the paycheck you get from it — will ultimately attract the right kind of girl.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Rich.” ... “Borrrring.”
General consensus: Ah, what can you expect? A job where you’re crunching numbers 10 hours a day doesn’t make for the most enticing conversation. Tell her about your other, maybe more relatable, passions the cash from your 9-to-5 (or 9-to-10, we know you work hard...) affords you like traveling, rock climbing, or asking for your paychecks in 100-dollar bills, throwing them up in the air, and dancing in the bills as they rain down.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Savvy.” ... “Manipulative.” ... “Charismatic.” ... “He’s on his phone A LOT.”
General consensus: Since your career requires honing that persuasive charm to keep your clients happy, we’ll see right through your pitch for a date—not that that’s a bad thing. Turn it down a notch and show us you can be chill, too. And please put down your damn Blackberry.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Sneaky!” ... “Smart and hardworking.” ... “Hooker-buyer!” ... “I bet he has great coke.”
General consensus: Wow, people in politics have a bad rap. Despite working in government involving lots of hard work and reaping some nice rewards, we’re not sold right away by your “influence.” We’ll think you’re a smooth talker, but also a great liar. “He has money; most of which you’ll never know about,” one woman says. So we don’t lump you in the category of men who have extramarital affairs, embezzle cash, or hire prostitutes to piss on them, focus on how your job helps influence the world in a positive way. “If he’s serving the public good, I can dig,” one respondent says. “But likely, he has an overinflated sense of penis... I mean, self.”
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Hippie!” ... “If you’re employed, that’s cool!” ... “Please don’t smell like patchouli.”
General consensus: No need to tell us how much you like to hike or eat organic — we get it. Avoid getting into lengthy debates about recycling or the importance of investing in solar energy sources. Give a short description of what you do, she’ll swoon at your ability to make money while saving the planet, and move along. Unless you work with cute sea animals; then you may give us a detailed run down of your job.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Not boyfriend material.” ... “Sexy—but looking for groupies.” ... “You and the rest of Brooklyn—get a real job!”
General consensus: This “job” description commonly follows something like “I work at a coffee shop, but I’m really a...” or “For my day job, I’m in sales, but at night I...” Oh sure, we know, we know. Groupies! The glowing chance to f*ck a potentially famous dude! The word “ego” was used repeatedly in the sample of responses—try to limit the smug. You’re a guy who’s fun to party with, and we can’t expect any sort of commitment from you. This relationship may turn out to be one big cat-and-mouse game if you are really interested in her. You need to let her know you’re actually into her and aren’t doing blow off other women’s stomachs in hotel rooms if you ever want it to be anything more.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Immature.” ... “Flirt” ... “Great f*ck buddy.”
General consensus: Even if you’re the owner of the place, working in a bar or restaurant has earned you an alcoholic (or recovering alcoholic) badge. We know late nights, plenty of booze, and basically hosting parties for a living means you’re probably full of energy, but also immature and unwilling to settle down. We realize you have more than a few notches on your headboard (who hasn’t slept with the hot bartender?) and don’t anticipate starting any real relationship with you. “Unless he’s head chef in which case, make me some pancakes!” one respondent says.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Manly!” “Drinks beer and smokes or chews tobacco.” ... “Will probably end up with a beer belly, back problems, and bald, but let him handle me while he’s still young.” ... “I hope you look like Jason Stackhouse.”
General consensus: Physically, we know you have what it takes to make us feel classically feminine (i.e. installing our air conditioner in exchange for beer, bench-pressing us, etc.). Accordingly, you’ll have the not-so-positive traits of classic masculinity, too: we’re thinking the ill-mannered, fart-joke-loving, beer-guzzling, bro. Show off your smarts (tell her you read books!) to prove you can have a deeo convo AND can fix our pipes, too.
From mouths of (actual) Babes: “If he has actual talent, that’s really hot.” ... “Might be emotionally unstable.” ... “So, you’re unemployed?”
General consensus: Expect to be asked an endless amount of follow-up questions — we’re totally suspicious. Have you been published or professionally credited anywhere? Are you a tortured soul? A trust fund baby? A faux starving artist? You get the point.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “I’m impressed and intrigued!” ... “He has a good heart.” ... “He probably eats a lot of pretzels and PB&Js.”
General consensus: You might be used to hearing “Aww...” and even getting an empathetic hug when you tell a woman you’re a teacher. We know this often-underpaid job takes dedication and a knack for working with kids. “He’s probably patient and doesn’t have a lot of issues,” one respondent says. The plot in Half Nelson, starring our collective boyfriend, Ryan Gosling, doesn’t even cross our minds. You can’t have a drug or booze problem if you’re working with kids for hours a day, right? (Don’t answer that.) Blame it on a childhood fantasy, but male teachers make us swoon. Even though we know you’re broke, upon first impression, the good shines through the most.
From the mouths of (actual) Babes: “Nerds! But I like nerds. They’re so nice.” ... “If he’s handsome, double points!” ... “Didn’t that bubble burst in like ’99?”
General consensus: The enthusiasm for techies surprised us (one response, perhaps incidental or unfinished, just said, “Sex.”). Other than the common qualms about computer geeks (“He plays a lot of video games,” and “He thinks he’s smarter than most” were potential tribulations two respondents described), a job description most don’t understand doesn’t indicate a reason to run the other way. In fact, it has the opposite affect: “If I’m not attracted to him, he still might be a good person to be familiar with—who knows when you’ll need your own website?” one woman says. Steer clear of too much tech talk in attempts to woo — it’ll just make you seem pompous and purposely trying to make us feel uncomfortable.
The bottom line: No career makes the man. So don’t lean on it to win ‘em over. Now, use your new-found, fly-on-the-wall knowledge to flatter away!
Originally published on July 21, 2011.