We have all the tips you need to tell others what you do for a living — without boring them to death!
Oh, the age-old question “So, what do you do?” We’ve all heard this question before, and we all understand how awkward it can be to answer. How do you talk about your job without sounding pretentious, or boring your listener to death?
Here’s the deal:
When you’re networking or in a job interview, how you answer this question can help you sell your candidacy to an employer, or it can show them that you’re extremely boring and you don’t even really know what you do.
How you describe what you do for a living is a great way to show off your value, your communication skills, and your ability to relate to others. You’ll want to show that you’re excited and passionate about what you do, and that you’re not just punching the clock to get a paycheck.
Here are five great ways to answer the question “What do you do?” that will leave a great impression on your listener:
Telling a story about your job will give you total control over how others picture what you do. You get to determine exactly what impression you’re going to make about your work and how you spend your time. Whether what you do is good or bad, it all depends on how you talk about it.
Use your job title as a means to transition into a story about something inspiring or fun about your work. For example, instead of just saying “I’m a lawyer,” you could say something along the lines of:
“I’m currently working as a lawyer for an immigration law firm. In fact, just last week my firm settled a case in which we were able to reunite a father with his family and prevented him from being deported.”
Dang, that sounds much more wholesome and friendly than just saying “I’m a lawyer.” Now, people will think you want to help them, and not just argue with them! When you tell a story, you have control over just what kind of impression you’re making.
Another great way to humanize your work and come off as a decent human being is to illustrate what you do at your job to make other’s lives better or easier.
For example, maybe you write articles for a website. When someone asks you what you do, you could say,
“I help people understand how to do research before job interviews, and how to answer difficult interview questions. I also give advice on how to ask for raises and negotiate salary once they’ve gotten a job offer.”
Wow, that sounds much more interesting than merely saying “I’m a writer.” The next time someone asks you what you do for a living, start off your response by saying “I help people…” and see just what you can come up with.
People will be much more interested in whatever it is that you do if you describe it in a way that’s relevant to them. Think about how your work experiences will resonate with your listener, or how your work could help them (or their business!) in some way.
This is another great moment to use your storytelling skills.
“Let’s say that you’re trying to decrease your carbon footprint, and you decide that you want to start using an alternative, environmentally friendly energy source in your home. I’m the person you call to have solar panels installed at your house, and I oversee and manage the project of installing them.”
You’ve just described what you do for work in a way that’s relevant to your listener! Now they have an understanding of what you do, how it relates to them, and what you do to help others — and the environment!
Even if you think you have the most fun and interesting job in the world, there’s no need to describe the nitty gritty details of your job. If you’re in a job interview, you’ll most likely be telling the interviewer something they already know. If you’re talking to someone outside of your industry, you’ll bore them to death and lose their attention.
If someone really wants to know about all the in’s and out’s or your daily tasks and responsibilities, they’ll ask. Until then, keep it short and sweet, and include only the most important details.
When you talk about the parts of your job that excite you, your listener will be excited too. Talk about your favorite parts of your job, and the tasks that you look forward to the most.
“I’m a freelance graphic design artist, and I typically do design work for companies trying to build a brand. I get to put my creative tendencies to use by creating a product that represents a company’s brand in a way that’s innovative and recognizable.”
Being enthusiastic about your work is a great way to get others listening, and to make your job sound really fun and stimulating, even if the majority of work is painfully dull and boring!
Even though “What do you do?” seems like an easy, straightforward question, giving an insightful answer can be a bit trickier than you might think.
You want your listener to see the value in your work, and to understand your excitement and passion for your job. If you can describe what you do in a way that’s compelling and relatable, you’re sure to win over your listener.
Use these tips the next time you’re faced with this question, and you’re sure to make a genuine connection and give an answer that’s both informative and insightful!
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You can access millions of others' career paths with the Career Graph to help you identify what skills and experiences you need to achieve your career goals. And when you're ready to take the next step in your career, you can research jobs and really understand the implications for your career aspirations.