Boss Lady

11 ways to perfectly answer ‘what do you do?’


For many of us, being asked ‘What do you do?’ is one of the most dreaded questions as we know that how we answer will directly impact  perceptions of us.

We have the chance to give a boring, ordinary answer  — and the same chance to give an answer that communicates our skill, abilities and profile. But we only have the one chance to do it with each inquirer.

If you answer it well and do your role justice, you create interest and respect. However, if you have found yourself struggling in the past it’s possible you made a common mistake, such as settling for a label, overcomplicating things or not telling the right ’story’

There are many things you can do in order to improve your answer, and to give a much more valuable idea of who you are and ‘what you do’.

1. Explain your role – don’t just answer with a label

When you’re asked what it is you do, simply answering with a label such as ‘I’m a lawyer’ or ‘I’m a salesperson’ isn’t enough.

Why? Because the minute you answer with a label or a title without any explanation, people automatically create their own idea of what it is that you do, and it may not always be the perception you want them to have.

Explaining your role avoids this issue, and you’ll be able to tell them exactly what you do and why.

This way you can ensure that your explanation will do you justice, more than any conclusion your audience will come to by themselves.

2. Keep it simple

While it’s vital you don’t just answer with one word, you don’t need to overcomplicate things.

Keep your explanation simple. Don’t try to provide a long-winded explanation complete with statistics and analyses.

What is most important when answering this question is that you say what it is you do and how. Practice summing it up in a sentence or two that highlights the main points and challenges.

3. Be sure to self-promote

Don’t be afraid to highlight what an important asset you are to your company when discussing what you do.

It’s okay to self-promote and show people how much you can bring to the table because if you don’t, then who will?

4. Convey self-respect

When you’re self-promoting, you need to exude the same self-respect you want others to give you.

If you don’t appear to be confident in your own abilities, and don’t demand respect, then no one will take you seriously.

5. Share stories

Sharing stories is one of the easiest ways to get someone interested in what you have to say, so don’t hesitate to share stories you consider relevant to the question.

This allows us to not only connect with our audience but also provide our listener with the exact image we want.

For instance, if you want to highlight what a great problem solver you are or how you create new ideas, all you have to do is choose a story which fits what you’re trying to put across.

6. Show your expertise

This is another great opportunity for you to show how good you are at your job.

Don’t waste this opportunity on regurgitating the same information that your listeners have probably already heard a thousand times before.

Instead, provide them with new information regarding your work that could probably help them as well.

This will both intrigue them and show them how good you are in your role  —  you’ve already given them some good advice.

7. Know your audience

Even though the question may focus on you, remember that every listener or audience is different.

Be sure that the stories you are sharing regarding your work relate to the person listening to them.

Take the person’s interests into account as you talk to them and find an instance at work that would fit with that, and lead with it.

8. Don’t be afraid to get personal

As you’re answering the sometimes dreaded ‘What do you do?’ question you may think that being as professional as possible is the best option, and sometimes it is.

Other times however, it’s okay to get a bit personal with your inquirer and ask them questions about their personal life that relate to the story you’re telling.

This allows you to better understand your audience and keep them engaged, and as long as you’re being respectful there’s no harm in asking some personal questions. Repetitive in the last two sentences

9. Be enthusiastic

There’s nothing worse than having someone explain what he or she does with little to no enthusiasm in his or her explanation.

If you want people to be interested in what you do and have to say, give them a reason to be.

If you present a positive and enthusiastic attitude regarding what you do, you’ve already increased your chances of having other people interested as well.

10. Leave them wanting more

Even though it’s a good idea to include all the tips outlined above, you also need to find a balance and know when to leave your audience wanting more.

Don’t give everything away just yet; instead provide them with just enough information to keep them wanting to hear more.

If you do this, it won’t be long until you find yourself with another business prospect or valuable contact.

11. Ask them what they do

Once you’ve shared with them what you do, don’t let the conversation end there.

Return the favor and ask them the same question, show them you are just as interested in their business as they are in yours.

This can do wonders for their perception of you and their willingness to work with you in the future.

About Natalie Cupac

Natalie Cupac Journalist & Features Writer for The Business Woman, Natalie Cupac is studying a double degree of Journalism and International Studies and has previously worked for Pacific Magazines

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