Do you know how to tell people what you do for a living?

People want to know what you do for a living

  • “So, what do you do?”
  • “What do you do for a living?”
  • “What exactly would you say you do here?”

Ok, maybe I've never gotten that last question. But I hear the other ones every single day.

Today I went to the doctor and they asked, as I was filling out forms.

Then we had the 1-800-junk people come to clear out our garage. They asked me.

And we had carpet cleaners come clean up a mess my son made in the middle of the night last night. That guy asked too.

I'll be honest, I barely leave my house. And seeing three vendors in a single day was a bit strange.

But if you don't work remotely from your home, and you're out and about like a normal person who leaves their house daily, you probably get it more than I do!

Most of us have boring jobs

I could tell you that a majority of what I do at Liquid Web is manage really intelligent people to deliver complex hosting / software solutions for companies whose sites are mission critical.

But that's not only boring, but it normally leaves people just sitting there. Deep down inside they want to say, “I have no idea what you just said there.”

Or maybe that's just me when I hear people answer with long or complicated answers.

I could tell you that I host websites – for large entertainment, athletic, and corporate companies, where we integrate sites with their internal infrastructure.

Oh my gawd, did you fall asleep yet?

Or I could go really simple.

I lead products at a hosting company.

But most people just look at you like huh. Or hmmm.

Again, not very interesting.

Have fun with it

Unless you're at the doctor where they are just looking to fill in a blank, most people ask because they want  to have a conversation.

So when you answer, do what I do. Have fun with it. Say something that inspires them to ask you a question – with serious interest to ask you more.

Today, for the carpet guy and the junk guy, here's what I said:

“Mostly I hire and fire people – all in the tech industry. More firing than hiring.”

Immediately people want to know about that. They dig in. They ask more about it. They find it incredible that it could be a job. Of course, in the course of talking, they'll find out I do more. But it gets them initially engaged to find out more.

Most importantly, if they're in management, we immediately have something in common.

“I speak at conferences across the globe – about business practices and free software.”

Right away, even if the person hearing it doesn't speak at conferences, we have something in common if they fly a lot.

You'd be amazed how many people fly a lot.

Here's the main point

Most people aren't asking you because they're taking a survey.

Most people aren't asking because they're doing a census.

Most people are asking as a way to connect and find a way to talk with you.

So when you describe what you do, don't just have fun with it, try to find the connection point with people.

“I wear yoga pants daily and barely leave my house” sounds better than “I'm a web designer.”

“I stalk bands online and play on twitter all day” sounds better than “I do media management for artists.”

“I manage a brand with half a billion YouTube views” sounds more engaging than “I run a software company.”

Even if someone doesn't wear yoga pants daily, they may wear them enough to talk a bit (after they finish laughing).

Even if someone doesn't do media management, they may play on twitter a bunch.

And even if someone only has 150 views on YouTube, you've still found a common connection point.

Don't be boring.