“So, what do you do?”
How often have you been asked that question.
From networking events to industry conferences to first dates, you’ve probably either asked someone this question or have been asked the same question at the very start of a conversation.
This question is broad and open-ended, typically meant to kick off a conversation and break the ice. Unfortunately, not everyone has the patience for conversation, so the most common answer has been reduced to what work you do for a living.
Why Your Job Is Not the Only Thing You Do
Back when I had a more traditional, corporate job, I found it rather easy to respond tothis question of “What do you do?” with my job title. When you work for a big brand or have a well-respected job title, I’ll admit sharing my response was easy and required little explanation. On the other hand, when I was in between jobs or in a career transition, I was at a loss for a socially acceptable answer.
Over time, I grew to dislike being asked what I did. Each time I answered, I felt like I was being judged on how important, rich, or successful I was. I felt this need to give an impressive answer to project myself as someone worthy of the conversation continuing.
People Are Unfortunately Quick to Judge
Back in 2013, immediately after I’d just left my corporate brand marketing job to start my business, I’ll never forget being a marketing conference and still struggling with how to now introduce myself. Instead of giving people my usual response of working for a big-name brand, I said I was an independent career consultant.
I would love to say the people remained as interested in talking to me, but the reality was, they weren’t. They were confused and uninterested, which took a toll on my psyche and confidence.
I later realized by responding with only my job title left people with no choice but to define me accordingly. This resulted in a very limited understanding of the work I do, my professional identity, and my personal interests.
Rebrand Your Professional Introductions
Over time, I began to respond to this question by rebranding my job description to include other things that mattered to me. For example, instead of just stopping with my job title alone, I expound by sharing my missions—helping people bravely pursue more meaningful work.
Likewise, instead of just sharing the components of my job, I tell people what I most enjoy doing like public speaking or connecting with people when they’re on the cusp of making a change or launching their own business.
Sharing what matters most to me rather than limiting my identity to my job title has given me stronger connections with the right people from the very start, and it tends to also open the doors to them responding in kind.
Go Beyond Your Job Title
People will inevitably ask what you do – it’s a reasonable, socially acceptable conversation starter. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your job title, function, or organization. However, if you only respond with your job title, others will define you accordingly, and most importantly, you may also define yourself in a similarly limited way.
The next time someone asks you the question, “What do you do?” share something else about who you are and what you care about that goes beyond your job title alone. Doing this paints a more complete picture of who you are and what you care about.
Who knows? You might also end up building up a network of connections who share similar interests or pave the way to more relevant, attractive opportunities for you in your career.
Listen in about this topic as I discuss “Redefining Who You Are” in more detail on Career Relaunch® podcast episode 10 with travel marketer turned freelance writer Kat Boogard.
This article was originally posted on Forbes.
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