This morning I sat holding the top of a long, fragile plait while my client, hand shaking, and speaking words of affirmation, lifted the scissors to start cutting away hair that her two recent bouts of chemotherapy had claimed.

Yesterday I held and rocked a newborn while his new mum had a mere moment to herself to be nurtured and cared for.

Last week I reassured an anxious mum that her childrens intense and physical negative reactions to their haircuts are not something that I am afraid of, but rather, something we will be able to persevere with until , eventually, they will be happy coming to visit the salon.

Sometimes, I can have all the above clients in the salon at the same time and be juggling all the emotions, needs and feels of each individual. More times than not, my occupation has very little to do with hair. The cut and colour end up being a byproduct of a much more complex situation.

On Friday I’m heading out to the local daycare centre to cut hair for the children and take another thing away from the endless ‘to-do’ lists of busy parents. I attend community meetings, volunteer my skills, research other businesses for hair donations, sustainability, allergy information, wig makers. I connect and share amongst clients; many have skills and businesses that others are specifically looking for.

Recently I was innocently asked ‘What do you do Sarah?’ A simple question, yes!? Not so simple if you think about it. Standard answers of ‘I’m a Hairdresser’ and ‘Small business owner’ always are the go to, however, it barely even touches the surface of what I actually do on a day to day basis.

‘Do’ is by definition, an action word. A Verb that deserves far more than a one or two word answer.

We seem to share a title of a position when asked about our occupations, instead of spending time thinking about and shaping an answer that better describes our time spent and passions pursued..

I don’t think the response ‘I’m a teacher’ could possibly do justice to the broadness and complexity of the roles involved in and around education. Are we to assume we know how each teacher spends their days?

‘I’m a builder’…..  of what!? What did you spend time specialising in? Where do your strengths lie, what materials do you like to use. For a company? Yourself? Your favourite project?

Nursing. Well. We all appreciate the depth, skill and emotional intelligence required for this position, but each clinic, specialty, hospital and patient presents and requires unique circumstances.

Sure these things can all be talked through if we have the opportunity to – once further in the conversation – but often, it’s not the case. We meet people in fleeting moments or online or via zoom or phone where a short and sharp one worded answer is all we can come up with to describe the hours spent day in and day out giving our all to an occupation.

You see where I’m going? Would spending time on identifying what we actually do help us remember our ‘why’ and would it also help us find extra acknowledgment to ourselves of just how bloody special and capable we are in what we achieve each day.

As a small business owner, I need to educate myself and tap into marketing, administration, tax, communication, management, networking and community outreach, budgeting ……etc etc. As a hairdresser, I have qualifications that require psychology, science, maths, arts and creativity, empathy, listening skills, problem solving and time management.

I don’t know about you but I’m so interested in hearing about what makes people tick. What sets you apart from the person next to you? What do you bring to the table that is unique to you? There would be a myriad of things for you to consider. That is my question to you today.

‘What do you do?’

If you find it hard to answer by yourself thoroughly, then maybe this thought process was truly needed!? Maybe a colleague or friend will make for the perfect person to help have this discussion with.

So, what do I do you ask?

I am a hairdresser by trade and I operate and manage a small business that provides a full range of hairdressing services along with a space for people where traditional salon environments may not be suitable. Behavioural, medical, religious and mental health needs all form part of our specialised group of services designed to fill a unique need in the wider community.

This answer receives more interest and intrigue from those who posed the question than it would if I responded ‘I’m a hairdresser’.  You can see why! It gains interest because of its specific details and highlights the specialty areas that set my environment apart from my peers. Let’s face it, without having walked in others shoes, do we actually know what anyone does or what is fully involved??? Maybe we can help by asking friends and acquaintances more in depth questions about their work when we next converse. The next stranger you meet, practice by giving more details on your role and see how the conversation flows or differs to some of those you may have had previously.

I’d love to hear in the comments how you describe your career, daily movements or skill set.

I’d love to hear ……. What do you DO?

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