As a special service to those of you who will be meeting a lot of new people over the Christmas holidays, here is a special script for the "What do you do?" question.
Used properly, you can take complete control of the conversation by asking the question first.
YOU: "May I ask what you do for a living?
OTHER PERSON: "I am in real estate (or banking, or whatever ...)."
YOU: "That's interesting. May I ask why you do what you do for a living?" If the person says something like, "I have an opportunity to make some serious money," go for the social kill.