When someone asks, "What do you do?" how do you respond? If you’re like most people, you respond with your title. "Well, I’m the owner of XYZ company." Or, "I’m the Executive Director of ABC." Or, "I’m a lawyer." Etc. At that point, what happens? Exactly. Nothing. Right?
It’s almost as if the moment we say our title, the other person’s brain shuts down, breathes a sigh of relief, and then kicks back into gear with another topic, "So, what did you think about the big game Sunday?" Networking opportunity started and aborted within seconds. So, how can you turn that around?
Easy. Don’t focus on your title. Instead focus in on what you do to help solve someone else’s problem or pain or need or situation. The simple formula would be to say who you help and then the problem you help them solve.
In my case, when people used to ask me, "What do you do?" my old answer was, "I’m a strategy and management consultant," which was almost always the kiss of death (I mean, let’s be honest, who wants one of those? Even worse, what is it?)
Instead, now when someone asks, "So what do you do?" (using the above formula), I answer, "I work with small and mid-size business owners and senior executives who are struggling to lead and grow their companies into larger, more profitable ones," at which point people say, "That sounds pretty interesting. So, how do you do that?" In other words, it opens up a whole different conversation–which is what you and I want at a networking event (or whenever we meet someone new).
So, how about you? How can you rephrase what you do? Start with who you work with (that helps qualify if this might be a fit) and then what problem or need or hurt you help solve or meet or heal. Instead of saying, "I’m a plastic surgeon," you might say, "I help people who don’t feel good about their appearance gain the confidence they need to be the best they can be," (sounds better doesn’t it? And intriguing!).
Now it’s your turn. How will you answer the question, "So, what do you do?" the next time–without using your title.