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March 04, 2008

Does Your Mother Know What It Is You Do?

By Karl Ribas

Tell me... does it ever occur to you that there may not nearly be enough hours in a given day to address all the things you wanted to? Or, is it just me? I'm thinking a few of you readers out there are feeling my pain. I've been juggling a few side projects since the New Year began, and keeping up with them as well as trying to maintain some sort of personal life with friends and family has really become quite difficult. In any event, I've managed to find a little breathing room tonight and so I thought that I would reach out to you all, and put down one of these half-thoughts that I've been holding onto for quite a while now.

Today's post brings me back to this past December when I was attending SES in Chicago. I was sitting in on the "So you want to be a Search Marketer" session, and Kevin Ryan, who was moderating the panel, mentions that this would be the perfect panel for his mother to sit in on, because she's still waiting for him to get a "real" job. Obviously, his mother, much like my parents, family, and friends, doesn't quite understand the nature of search marketing.

It was then that I first began thinking about all the times I've personally stuttered through a conversation with a friend, family member, or those I was meeting for the first time. Answering the "what do you do for a living" or "what kind of work are you in" question is a tough time for me, and honestly it's one that I've started to dread. In fact, I started hating having to explain search marketing to people so much that I simply gave up on it. Instead, I'd much rather say that I am web site designer or involved with marketing than having to explain the mere complexities of how I utilize search engines to rank websites and get paid for it.

As it sits now, my entire family is under the assumption that I am a web site designer, while many of my friends who are more up with the times understand that I not only design web sites but market them via search engines. Of course, there are a few people out there that have the idea that I work for Google or Yahoo! – don't even get me started on that.

My reasoning for this post, is to find out how you address these, often awkward, situations with your parents and other non-industry folks, and what, if anything, do you say to help avoid the "deer-in-the-headlights" look and move the conversation forward? Do you simply opt to be a "web designer" or do you use some other well-recognized occupation to explain your career?


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I prefer " I could tell you but then I will have to Kill You!"

My friends and parents think there's something wrong with working 10-12 hours a day at home, but if I were sitting in an office every day, it wouldn't be a problem. They all act like it's kind of a screw off job. I've started telling new friends that I'm a programmer and they seem to lay off with the questions and criticism because programmers are expected to work long hours no matter where they work from. An added bonus to saying programmer vs. designer is that people are less prone to ask about doing a site for them (at least for me).

I have the same problem (even the working for Google and Yahoo one!)

Usually I try and give a real basic example. To my Mom, for example, I'll say, "Remember when you searched in Google for dinner recipes? I help companies show up in those results so you get to their site." Her response, "So you're the reason I can't find what I'm looking for."


I handle it by warning them ahead of time that their eyes will glaze over just like every other person who has asked for an explanation.

"You know those little ads you see when you do a google search?"
"I write those, and make sure they work right. Then I do endless testing to improve it on a day to day basis. I also do web analytics for our company."

Lol... this is all great stuff guys.

@Brian L: I will definitely have to give "being a programmer" a shot... people ask me to build sites all the time. It never fails.

@Taylor: That's too funny man. I love it!

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