“So what do you do?” It’s a question that most of us answer badly. We fall back behind a label (‘I’m a doctor / lawyer / accountant’). Or we relate what we’ve done in the past, a list of tasks completed rather than an exploration of goals achieved and skills acquired. Or worst of all, we claim not to do anything at all! (‘I’m just a housewife, I’m unemployed …’) when that just means that you’re not currently paid money for all the things you do and you love.
But when you define yourself like this, you’re missing out on an opportunity to really connect with the other person. You’re selling yourself short, and cheating them too in the process. How you present yourself has a huge impact on how others see you. You wouldn’t buy an expensive gift and hand it over in an old paper bag. So when you meet people, present yourself well: it helps them see you clearly.
Recently I was introduced to Steve at a networking event. “So what do you do?” I asked. “Oh, it’s very boring,” he replied. “I look at numbers on a screen.” “Tell me more,” I persisted. “It’s just data. I look for anomalies in the figures.” By this point I was starting to feel desperate, but I tried a third time: “Can you give me an example?” “Well yeah … you know when there’s a hurricane in the Caribbean and people donate money? We buy tents and send them over but sometimes they go missing before they reach the camps. That means someone stole them and I work out who.” “Oh my goodness,” I said. “So you’re a sort of Robin Hood for refugees … Why didn’t you say so?”
When you’re asked what you do, how do you reply? Answering with a job title and company is our cultural norm; anything else could make you feel exposed and vulnerable. But the way you present yourself has a huge impact on how others perceive you. When you’re freelance, self-employed, or looking for a new job – how could you introduce yourself in a way that makes you sound interesting? Which emphasizes not only what you’ve done but what you can offer? That tells them about your passions and what makes life worth living? Which makes you feel better about yourself?
So next time, answer with a story that tells people about yourself. Which lets them connect with you as a human being. You’re much more than what you do for a living. You’re unique, tell us how!