After you ask someone their name, what’s the next thing that you ask them? It’s probably, “What do you do?” This age old question is a classic conversation starter that has withstood the test of time. You’ll hear it at business meetings, cocktail parties, networking events, coffee shops, dinner parties, and just about anywhere you go where you meet someone new. Get ready because you’ll be asked this question sooner than later.
“What do you do?” is a common question because it dives into who you really are. Generally it’s asked on friendly terms by someone who wants to get to know you. The idea is to find common ground and build a conversation and a connection. Yet, many people hate this question and are unsure how to answer it – especially if they are unemployed or are between jobs.
When you’re asked “what do you do?,” how do you respond? Try not to sound like a boring broken record. Instead give an answer that defines you. Are you a surfer? A blogger? A knitter? A competitive runner? An aspiring entrepreneur? Provide a response that shares what you are passionate about. It’s always easier to talk about your passions that a boring job title or standard old job. Plus, having a good answer will help you avoid awkward conversations.
Craft a response that sparks interest. Build yourself up and show that you are more than just a businessman, job seeker, or salesman. This may take a bit of pre-game brainstorming, but it’s worth it. Take the time to define your unique selling proposition (USP) that makes you the most interesting person in the room. This is how and why people will remember you – and this is an important part of networking.
Think about it. The response of “I’m a fan of SCUBA diving and spend the majority of my time living on a boat off the coast of a tropical island teaching people how to dive and identify tropical fish” is way more interesting than “I’m a mid-level manager at a yarn factory and work in a cubicle.” The first response paints a picture and leaves the person you met keen to learn more about you. This is key in the world of making connections.
Even if you don’t have a cool job yet, or your in a “transition” time, you can still create an interesting response to the “What do you do?” question. Focus on your hobbies, travels, education, volunteering, or web presence. Shine the spotlight on what you are passionate about and make yourself interesting.
And of course, don’t forget that you also need to ask your new contact the same question – “What do you do?” This question is going to be a part of your life and a main component of your conversation streams until the end of time. Don’t be boring. Choose to be interesting. Let your response to this one single question help you grow a professional network that takes you far in life.
So, what do you do?