#72: What do you do for a Living? – A Private Investigator’s Response After 10 Years

There was an article written last year that asked the question, “What do you tell people you do for a living?”  It was private investigator focused and I thought it was an interesting topic.  I thought it would be beneficial to answer the question in my own blog.

In 1996

A mother of a friend of mine showed me a certificate of how she had passed a private investigation course and was going to be a private investigator.  To be honest back then I didn’t think private investigation was a real job let alone a career.  I actually felt bad for the woman at the time because I thought she had wasted her money on a course for knowledge she would never be able to use.

What I Used to Think and Say About Being a Private Investigator

I used to be the coolest guy (in my head). People would ask what I do for a living and I would say, “ I am a private investigator.” By saying I was a private investigator the door would be opened for discussion on some of the things I did daily. I was able to talk about some of the cool surveillance stories (and I remembered every one of them for about a year or two). I couldn’t wait for people to ask me what I did for a living.  I had the coolest job ever.  Not many people can say they work as a private investigator for a living.

I had coworkers that didn’t respond in the same way.  Some coworkers played it down or tried to call what they did something else.  They would just say they were an investigator, insurance investigator, or they worked in the insurance industry.  I think to some degree they were embarrassed to use the word “Private Investigator”.

How I Explain my Job to my Kids

I think one of the most difficult things has been to explain to my young children what I do for a living.  To make it easier to understand I told my son and daughter that I watched and videotaped people without them knowing all day.  At night my daughter would pray that I would be invisible to the people I was watching.

That explanation was fine and dandy until my daughter’s teacher asked her what her dad did for a living.  She explained that I spied on people and videotaped them.  My daughter came home that day and told me what she told her teacher and I was mortified.

A month or so later we attended a parent teacher’s conference.   We brought up the discussion of my job and I explained my job in detail.  We all had a big laugh at how my daughter described my job.  The teacher admitted she was a bit worried as to what my daughter had told her originally.  It was quite funny.

My son’s teacher asked me what I did for a living this year.  I explained I was a private investigator and I mostly just conducted surveillance.  I played down the job and explained that I didn’t want her to get the wrong impression if my son decided to tell her I spied on people all day.

How I Tell People I am a Private Investigator Now

What do you do for a livingThe thrill is gone for me in this job.  That is to say I don’t get the adrenaline rush every time I followed someone from one destination to another.  I can barely remember a surveillance case for a couple of months ago which is drastically different from when I first started this job.

I don’t think I am the coolest guy because of what I do for a living anymore.  Most of my life is spent sitting in a car and getting video of people.  I am good at what I do but it doesn’t have the excitement it once did.  I think the excitement of many jobs fade eventually.

So when people ask me what I do for a living I tell them I am a private investigator. Their response is typically something to the effect of how it sounds like an interesting and exciting job.  I typically respond by saying, “Not after doing it for 10 years.”  If they ask about it anymore I just explain that I investigate claims in the insurance industry.  I don’t play the job up anymore than what it really is.

I think from the outside looking in the job sounds exiting and mysterious.  Movies and fiction have made the job of a private investigator sound much cooler then I think it is.  We are information gatherers.  Some are better and gathering and locating information then others are.

If you’re a private investigator, how do you explain what you do?  Has how you feel about the job changed since you first began?  Comment below.



  1. I feel the same as you I love what I do but tv makes it look more exciting than it really is.

    • I agree. There have been a ton of articles/blogs written which explain this to the general public so didn’t want to write about that.

  2. That about sums it up! I usually just say PI. And definitely am not as excited about going to work as I once was.

  3. I am brand new so I am still excited to explain how cool I think it is and I tell them that I am a PI. The new has not worn off for me yet.
    It seems to me as a beginner that this industry offers many choices in specialization. As a matter of fact, I have been a little overwhelmed in trying to chose one to highlight for marketing purposes. I get the fact that at the core we are information gatherers, and most areas will require similar techniques, but have you considered offering services that will give you a chance to develop/exercise other collateral skills and make you excited to practice your trade again? You seem to be heavy in the insurance surveillance and stuck in a rut. I was also stuck in a rut, and that is why at 50 years old, I have chosen a new career. It seems to me that our industry offers much more flexibility, and being your own boss makes it that much easier to take those steps, and the slow times allow for training in those new area.
    .02 from a new guy. Good luck.

    • Bob you make some really good points. And yes I would agree that I am in a bit of a rut but I am here on purpose for now. Being excited about the job in the beginning is natural. I would be concerned if in the beginning someone wasn’t excited.

      And you are right about the diversity of this industry. There are many different things to highlight and focus on. I am really just focusing on one thing but what I am focusing on might not be exciting to the next guy.

      Nice comment Bob. Thanks for commenting on the post.

  4. It’s almost embarrassing now to admit that I am a private investigator because the next question I usually get is, “do you drive a Ferrari and have a helicopter on standby?” Ugh.

    • Travis you are not alone. I would just answer, “yes I do have a Ferrari and a helicopter on stand by”. Do you? 🙂

  5. Great article. I agree, the work usually isn’t as exciting as it was when I first started. To keep things fresh I try to add new skills and work outside my comfort zone more often. I’ve moved away from insurance surveillance and started working more missing persons, criminal, and legal investigations. When people ask me what I do, I used to tell them I was a private investigator and think it was awesome, coolest job ever. But now days, a good part of my business now comes from consulting for corporations and law firms. I feel it’s more accurate and gets a better response when I say “professional investigator and consultant” or “investigative consultant”.

    • Great point about working out of your comfort zone. That is something that can be very hard to do. I like the “investigative consultant” response.