How To Answer The Dreaded Question, “So, What Do You Do?”

Image: pixabay

The Problem – What do you do?

We have all been asked this. Many of us have a one-minute elevator pitch ready to go. “Well, Bob, I do this and that with some of this other thrown in for good measure, and I help people blah, blah, blah.”

Face it. The main reason that people ask this question is that they want you to ask it of them. Everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. His (or her) accomplishments, dreams, desires. We all like to toot our own horn. What is the easiest way to do that at a networking event? Ask the question, “So what do you do?” Wait out the response of the answering individual tuning out most of what they say, feigning interest until … Drum roll please…It is our turn to talk about us. (Remember, now the questioner is doing to you what you just did to them.)

While you may adequately describe your role in your profession, it shouldn’t be the way that we answer this question.

Ask yourself, are you only defined by your job or career that gives you money? Most people have many facets and enjoy things other than their simple 9 to 5. They have hobbies, family, friends. They enjoy a wide range of activities from sports to reading and everything in between.

So the question becomes how do you explain all of that in a short time, peak the interest of the questioner, and increase your value all at the same time?

The Answer

The answer is simple. The answer, “I don’t really do anything.” Pause, wait for it, the befuddled look of “What?” crosses the questioners face. Now you have their attention. “Bob, it is Bob, isn’t it? I don’t do anything. I am in the process of becoming XYZ.”

That’s all there is to it. “I am in the process of becoming…” ‘Do' is finite. It doesn’t allow for you to describe your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. It doesn’t give you the freedom to expound upon who you are and who you want to be. Not to mention it is overused, and people have a natural tendency to tune out the response because let’s face it, they are simply making conversation and listening for that one nugget of information that you may possess that will help them. At the end of the day, the career that everyone cares about is their own.

So, if you are a person that is solely defined by their career, the minute elevator pitch will work well for you. If like most folks, your job is only one part of you then you need to answer what are you in the process of becoming.



The idea from this post came from an interview done by Tim Ferriss with Derek Sivers many years ago. You can listen to that interview here:


TC Thompson is a husband, father, and believes that men need to step up into the roles that they were created for. His focus is on leadership and discovering what you are called to be.