World's Worst Question: What Do You Do?

Another day. Another stuffy networking event filled with inquisitive strangers passing out freshly printed business cards. The busy souls want to talk about "what they do" and share their one-word job title. Not everyone can answer what they do and expect everyone to understand because many of us do so much. There are many of us who feel the bubbling in our gut, when we are asked "what do you do?"

You know the question for "grown ups" that is similar to the question we ask elementary kids, "what do you want to be when you grow up?"
The question implies that you can only do one thing. Come on now. I do at least 3 different things (depending on the weather).

The question is just the same as a wolf in sheep's clothing. The people that are asking you what you do really want to know your socioeconomic status and whether they are on a rung above or below you on the ladder!

Just exactly how do you introduce yourself when there are a multitude of roles that you hold on a regular basis and "what you do" is dynamic?


See if you are a "multipassionpreneur" (an entrepreneur with multiple passions), you may not have one job title or you may not be able to say that you work for a Fortune 500 company as a top analyst. As a "multipassionpreneur" I used to struggle with answering the question because I was so concerned with what people thought of my response.

Tip for the nosy people:
Instead of asking "what do you do?" ask "what are the many things you do to improve life?" or "what are the many things you would like to experience before you die?"

Tips for the multipassionpreneurs:

Context matters and it is everything

The most attractive thing about being a "multipassionpreneur", is that you have so many different identities, that you can literally choose the one that sounds right for the situation and requires the least amount of explanation if you do not want to elaborate.

You can even consider the intentions of the person that is asking.
Is the person asking a potential new friend who seems open-minded?
Is he/she genuinely interested, or he/she just being friendly?
Better yet, how do you feel?
Are you in the mood to dive in and talk about your work, or would you prefer to just drop a one-word answer and move on with your life?

It does not hurt to sit down and write up a list of possible one-liners that you can pull out in different contexts.

Use the fill in the blank approach

Another option is to forget your own word title! You can talk about your "why."
Whenever I use this approach, I say something like, "I help people who have diverse interests find ways of integrating all of their interests into their daily lives." Other examples would be things like, "I help people and businesses tell their stories," or "I help empower people to design the life they love."
It doesn't say anything about how you help people design the lives they love. Maybe you are a graphic arts teacher, maybe you are an inspirational speaker, maybe you work for the public library. They all fit within your fill in the blank statement.
Once again, this approach will always lead to a discussion, so be sure that you are in the mood to expand on all of the ways in which you help people do x, y, and z! This approach is a good idea to answer this question for yourself.
If you have not already, sit down and spend some time identifying who you help (your audience) and how you improve their lives (the value you provide). It's a really useful thing to know.

Now if you are still battling with pitching what you do I suggest you grab a book to read watch a few videos, and ask others. Here are a few books I have on my bookshelf that you may want to check out in your free time.

To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others

Disclaimer: This article contains Amazon affiliate links.

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