Did You Know? There’s a Right Way to Describe Your Job to People.
How many times have we been asked by someone at a social or business event, “So, what do you do for a living?” This is your chance to tell someone exactly what you do professionally in as few words as possible, and hopefully make them remember you. It’s also a question where your finely crafted answer can either open doors or close them.
I have found it incredibly useful to ask your friends this question and see how they answer. “So, what do you do for a living?” Then have them ask you the same question and see if you choke on an answer or make it too long. If you do, it’s time to reflect and refine. Write it down, read it back, and make sure it succinctly explains exactly what you do—but in as focused a way as possible. The objective here is to answer in one or two sentences, and to make sure that the other person can remember it. It’s harder than it sounds!
Make it stick, make them curious, and get the conversation going.
Try to include something in your answer that makes them ask you more about yourself, and also think about the inclusion of a ‘sizzle’ word. This word would be something that is beyond a generic answer that creates a feeling. Think about “sizzling country bacon” versus just “bacon.” Which one sounds more appealing (sorry vegetarians)—the one-word answer, or the vivid phrase that actually makes you picture it in your mind?
Apply the same thing to your answer. For example, asking LBT’s own Tina Trevino, are you a ‘Fashion designer,’ or an ‘International Fashion Designer?’ ‘International Fashion Designer’ not only sounds more appealing (and true), but might get a few extra questions asked about you. (We really did practice this with Latina business owner and LBT partner Tina Trevino!)
I have a stock answer when asked the “What do you do” question. While I do a number of “alternate” things professionally such as write articles and work with musical artists, my primary job is as a full time music writer for television shows. And that’s exactly how I answer, saying only “I’m a TV composer!” I don’t say, “I’m an author, Grammy-nominated mixer/engineer, and TV composer.” The TV composer answer is short, to the point, refined, and more often than not, gets a follow up question asked. Usually it’s, “What is that?” From there, I can expand on my answer and let them know my music is in over 40 countries and has been used on over 1000 series.
If they didn’t ask further, they weren’t interested anyway!
A side topic directly related to how you answer the primary “What do you do” question also relates to how you think of yourself professionally. While many entrepreneurs do a variety of tasks to ‘make it,’ either out of necessity or choice, it’s been proven countless times how valuable the asset of focusing is. Recently I heard author and entrepreneur John Lee Dumas (whose podcast has over 100 million listens over 3000 episodes) speaking on a shortcast called “Beyond the To-Do List.” Dumas, the author of “The Common Path to Uncommon Success,” noted the absolute importance of focusing and not spreading yourself too thinly.
Using the F.O.C.U.S. technique:
His memorable mnemonic for FOCUS is “Follow One Course Until Success.” “Most people in this world go one mile wide with all of these ideas, and they go one inch deep with all of their impacts,” he noted. “They wonder why they are making no impressions. But the people who win have in common the ability to focus and go one inch wide, one mile deep. They become the best solution to one real problem.”
To expand on that further, it’s important to try your best to stay focused on a particular skill set that you know you can sell, and become one of the best at it. With that skill set, go one mile deep with it, and not one mile wide.
With that in mind, refine your answer to the “What do you do” question by keeping it short and going one mile deep. Try different answers out on colleagues and see which one sticks. Then, practice your focused and refined answer until you say it with absolute conviction, and just wait for them to ask you more!
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