When you meet someone for the first time, the question “What do you do?” inevitably makes its way to the conversation. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of this question. It is not a great question to ask, nor is it fun to answer.
Let’s explore some reasons for why this question is not so great. “What do you do?” implies you are asking what someone does for a living. This makes people define themselves by how they earn a paycheck. What if they are in transition? What if they hate their job?
So you can see how this simple and common question can quickly make someone uncomfortable. Plus, you are not really getting to know that person.
Here are some alternative questions to ask instead:
- If you won the lottery what would you do?
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you like to do?
- What is your favorite thing that you own?
- How do you spend your days?
- What are you most excited about right now?
- What are you working on?
- What are you most proud of?
- What’s the number one item on your bucket list?
- What gets you up in the morning?
The number one thing people want to talk about is themselves. When you facilitate this, you’ll be remembered because they enjoyed the conversation. Just remember: A good question prompts people to tell a story about themselves, in turn creating a deeper connection.
Now let’s examine some ways to answer “What do you do?” because you will undoubtedly get that question. Do you say, “I’m a marketing manager” or “I work for ACME Corporation”? My guess is 95 percent of you answer with something along those lines.
Don’t let your work define you. How would you answer that question if you are currently between jobs? You might feel a little deflated when someone asks you that, especially if you haven’t given much thought into what you should answer.
What if you designed a different way of answering that question? What if you told a story? For example, I might answer that question with, “Right now I am really excited to be launching a new product that will help marketers manage their personal brand in only two minutes a day.”
It’s not true, but if that sounded interesting to you, let me know, and I may just start working on that.
To start to tell your story, think about these three things:
- Who is your audience?
- How do you serve them or provide value?
- What results are achieved?