how to answer the question “what do you do?” without boozing, sleazing, or wanting to die (part 2)
Whether you’re intentionally pounding the pavement or not, you’ll likely make the rounds this season.
So here are my 6 tricks for building YOUR easy, authentic answer when somebody asks, “What do you do?”
2. Make an amazing impression before the Q&A starts.
Awkwardness abounds at parties. Get a leg up by breaking the ice. Not only will you set others at ease, you’ll make everyone more receptive to hearing your big idea.
Swipe these simple acts of excellence:
- Smile whenever you make eye contact.
- Say hello first.
- Ask curious questions.
- Start a conversation with the person standing alone in the corner.
- Be the first to share a funny or personal detail from your life. (Your favorite book of the moment? A joke you heard recently? Your appreciation for the resurgence of velvet?)
In life as in copywriting, make your audience feel interesting and they will find YOU interesting. Remember, people remember how you made them feel…not what you said.
3. Nix the idea of selling yourself. Start a conversation instead.
When someone asks, “What do you do?” she’s trying to be polite. She doesn’t want to make your head spin; she’s just looking for a safe way to start a conversation.
So the next time you hear it, take a deep breath and remember: We’re both here to have fun. My pitch is an opportunity to explore common interests in my field of expertise
Truth is, you won’t sell anything at a networking event. Nobody is whipping out her credit card.
4. Back away from the job title.
During casual introductions, most people lean on their job title to do the work for them. But let’s be honest, nobody knows what your job title means.
It’s like when you introduce yourself to someone who says, “I’m a program matrix manager” and you’re nodding, yet totally mystified. You start to question your sanity and intelligence and nobody likes that.
- When your conversational partner works in your industry. Maybe you’re both transformational coaches, for example. In that case, you’re off to the races and don’t need my help.
- When you’ve got a title that conjures a concrete image. So if you’re a doctor, a teacher, or an astronaut, you can say “I’m a doctor/teacher/astronaut.” At this point, you’ve given them enough info to a) understand what you do and b) start a conversation.
But assuming you two do NOT share an industry and you DO have a title that sounds vague, stiff, or boring (i.e. consultant, coach, manager, etc.), try to avoid saying your title. Nobody knows what it means anyway.
But wait?? If you don’t provide the standard [insert job title here], what ARE you supposed to lead with?
Glad you asked.
5. Link your area of expertise to a subject of common interest.
Instead of a job title, provide CONTEXT.
To make it easy for strangers to understand what you do, you need to ground them somewhere familiar, then introduce an unfamiliar idea (i.e. your work).
- What universal problems do you address in your work?
- What universal desire or goal do you help people achieve?
- What common situations, current events, or celebrities operate in your field of expertise?
- You know how most people struggle to ______? I help people do that.
- You know how most people want to ______? I help people do that.
- You know ______? I do something like that.
Here’s an example.
Let’s pretend I’m a story strategist (whatever that means!), and I’m talking to a fellow entrepreneur.
Think about potential peeps you might meet in your travels and take it from there.
6. Let your passion shine.
Most people haaaate their jobs. But not you and me! We Love Our Work, so this is where we really soar.
So after you used Step 5 to give a big picture impression about what you do, pause to see if your partner has any questions.
Once you’ve gushed about your own interests, you can swing it back to them with the easiest softball of all: “So what do you love to do?”