Small Business

What Do You Do?

When you’re at a business networking event, or even a social gathering, and someone asks the inevitable question “What do you do?” do you find yourself going into a panic?

This is one of the most normal questions to ask someone to open a conversation, after telling them your name (which is usually not registered by their awareness). So why is it so terrifying and what can you do about it?

For most of us it’s terrifying because we haven’t worked out a quick answer we’re happy and comfortable with that fits into a 20 second sound grab. So, the way to resolve this terror is to get clear on what we do.

I often use the example of an apple seed trying to produce carrots. If you were able to ask an apple tree what it does you’d get a response like “I produce apples”. (Actually, you CAN ask an apple tree that question. It’s when you start to hear answers that we need a very different type of discussion, which is outside the scope of this post.)

A marketing person would then tell the apple tree to “sell the sizzle not the steak” or in the tree’s case “sell the experience not the fruit”. But I digress, yet again!

When asked the “WDYD” question do you reply with you job title? A common response is “I’m an …”. Whether that’s an accountant, IT consultant, fashion designer, Executive Navigator or whatever, you’re using a noun to answer a question requiring a verb. (Remember your school grammar? Nouns are naming words while verbs are doing words.) So, in this case you’re not answering the question, you’re deflecting it.

In order to answer the WDYD question you need to be able to tell people what you DO.

Most people will then go into an explanation of their tools. “I build IT networks”. “I do accounting”. “I do astrology readings.” For me that’s a bit like a cabinet maker telling you about the hammers and chisels he uses.