Looking for NEET / JEE Coaching? Enquire Now

How to answer the "What do you do?" question

"What do you do?" will perhaps always be synonymous with "who are you?" however when your response includes a little about what you really do, you give the listener a better perspective of who you are. You provide them with the image of you to carry. It is no longer about their thoughts, it is what you want them to believe.

The world judges you by what you do. It is so common in our society to ask people what they do. It is the first question that is asked after the preliminary exchange of names and a handshake. People want to know more about you, and the question, "what do you do?" is tantamount to 'who you are'. When people ask you what you do, they basically want to gauge you – your calibre, your qualification, your status in society and your financial position etc.

It is a very polite way of gathering information about the other person. It is a simple question that lets others categorise you into - smart, well-to-do, intelligent and high-society etc. Your response provides a portrait of what you do and who you are.

The question looks so simple and uncomplicated, but, on the other hand, there is also an obscure shortcoming attached to the response. Your one-word response can make the other person form a whole image of you and your life. You get labelled in their mind and this can lead to them stereotyping you. Their perception stems more from the encounters that they have had in the past and not so much about what they might or might not know about you, personally.

Let's say, you tell someone you are a marketing professional. They will probably form an image of you being a pushy smooth-talker. If you say you are a lawyer, they will perhaps see you as aggressive and willing to bend the rules, while following the rules. If you say you are an auditor people will look at you with someone who is excellent with numbers.

The above assessment might appear a bit irrational, but it is just to give you an idea of how people's minds work. The likelihood of the images people conjure of you when they hear what you do might actually not do justice to either who you are or to what you do. Nonetheless, this is one question that gets asked, no matter where you are – from family get-togethers to networking events; everyone wants to know what you do.

So here is the thing, you will need to develop a way to describe what you do in a manner that it makes for an invigorating conversation starter, instead of it leading to the pigeon-hole.

This is a question that you will have to deal with, no matter what age you are. I am providing you with some convincing ways to respond. Experiment with these responses and see which one allows you to present yourself in the best way.

Mention how you assist others

Let's say you are a copywriter. Instead of introducing yourself as one, why not say something that is bound to get the listener's interest. Tell them that you are someone who assists business houses in creating and telling convincing stories about their products. Is this not something profoundly more attention-grabbing?

Such an introduction will instantaneously do away with the category that people will push you into. Your introduction of your job speaks more than your job-title, it expounds on the value you bring to the table.
The next time someone asks you what you do, begin by saying "I assist people with…" and let the conversation take its own path. You will be surprised in where it leads you.

Relate an anecdote involving your job

I love building conversations around narratives. I find them quite enthralling. Narratives help in connecting people. There is a study, which I read, about narratives that is quite fascinating. It found that when an anecdote is being related the brain activity of both the narrator and the listener begin to replicate one another, despite the fact that one is listening and the other speaking.

When you answer the "what do you do" question, with a narrative, you provide the other person with a context. They now have more clarity of what you really do, instead of having to rely on the image that they have subconsciously built.

When employing this approach you might have to tell them upfront what you do but switch straight away into your narrative about something that is enjoyable or stimulating in your job. For instance, when people ask me what I do, I tell them that I am a freelance writer, but then follow it up with a narrative of how I work with clients from across the globe and the kind of writing I do. This provides a context to what I do and ably illustrates the demand for what I do.

Be ready to educate

Think of your response in this light – that you are the subject and that you need to educate others on yourself.

So, what do you do? Don't just blurt out your job-title instead explain to the others the nitty-gritty of your job. Talk about the type of work you do or about the industry. Speak about the essential role you play. Talk of the latest happenings in your field. Mention some fascinating things you have learned through your journey. Keep the conversation interesting and let it be a new way of introducing yourself.

Don't be scared of vulnerability

Don't feel shy of talking about yourself and of your journey. Be forthright about how you came to be what you are. Speak about your passion that led you to be where you are. Don't be hesitant while talking of your vision and where you want to see yourself.

Remember, conversations are meant to build relationships. To ensure that this proceeds effectively, you will need to drop your guard of secrecy. You will need to allow others to peep behind the curtains to see the real you. You need to let people understand the real you.

Keep it to the point

Despite all the advice I have given till now, you still need to keep it all relevant. When you are answering the question about what you do, it is not so much about you, even though it seems to be.

Be cautious and sift through the information that you want to share with the other person. What you tell them about yourself and your job needs to be relevant to them. Connect with people, even when it is about you. Think of experiences that can resonate with people when you talk to them. When you do that you build an instant connection.

Share your enthusiasm

How you feel reflects on your countenance. Hence, if you are really excited about something people can see it in your eyes. Choose to talk about things that you are enthusiastic about and it will just brighten you up. When you are zealous about something, people see it. You emit positive vibes and a feel good aura about you. You begin attracting people like a magnet, and folks actually want to be around you.

Market yourself

Today the world is all about marketing, consider you as a brand, and begin marketing yourself. Marketing is nothing but self-promotion and it helps keep you in the limelight, among those that matter.

You do not have to brag about what you do. It is more of a strategy, where you let the others know of the value you bring to what you do – be it within an organisation or in working with clients. You remove the veil off what you do and let everyone know what you are really good at. You will be appreciated more for your worth and your abilities.

So, don't be hesitant talking about you. You will do yourself a big favour by speaking about what you actually do, rather than mentioning just the job title. So, the next time someone asks you what is it that you do, give them an insight of your real working world.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 609 articles authored by Juana

Related Articles

How to prevent acne scars?

This article explains various measures which keep acne under control. This decreases inflammation and consequently chances of formation of acne scars too decreases. Actions like not picking at skin, proper hydration, using sunscreen lotions, proper skin care regime etc prevent formation of acne scars.

How To Control Anger?

Have you ever been angry and later on felt sad for being angry on some one or something? Do you want to control your anger ? Is anger good or not ? The following article will discuss about anger and measures through which we can control our anger.

How to remove blood stains from delicate fabrics and specific surfaces?

This article explains various tips and methods to get rid of blood stains from delicate fabrics like silk, satin, woolen, linen etc and from specific surfaces like concrete, hardwood floors, mattress, quilt, leather, carpets etc. These methods used can make them free from blood stains.

Top 9 tips and exercises to sharpen the mind and boost brainpower

The brain needs constant stimulation to remain alert and active. Practice good habits that can sharpen your memory and help you stay alert and on top of your game at all times. Simple lifestyle changes that involve the number of you sleep or what you eat or how you relax can play a great role in how your brain functions. Find out what you need to do right, to get the best out of your grey cells.

How to become a pathologist with top hospitals in India

Are you looking for a career in medicine as a clinical pathologist? Need to know how to start a pathology lab? This article provides complete information on the different specializations in pathology and a career guide on starting a career as a pathologist. You will also get a general idea on the approximate costs of setting up your own path lab.

More articles: How to


Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao30 Aug 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

A good resource. A simple question and how complicated it is to answer. I asked a person, when I met him, ' What do you do'. The answer he has given is never expected and I stopped talking to him further. Even I met him at times, just I say Hai only. No more questions. The answer he gave, ' I think of what to do'. My impression about that man after hearing his answer is he is not doing anything and he is not a useful stuff. So I agree with the author that the way we reply for that simple question will give an impression about you.
Nowadays, what you are doing or what you have done is not important. How you present your work is very important. As mentioned by the author marketing yourself in this competitive world is very important.A nice article by the author.

Author: Juana18 Aug 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

Yes, presentation and marketing yourself right is the key. How you package yourself is what counts. People look at the packaging and judge you. Sometimes it gets a little superficial, but that's how the world works.

“I think of what to do."

I find the answer of the person pretty interesting. I see it as rather profound and philosophical. Had you gently probed and asked what he had meant, there is a fair possibility, that his response would have been insightful, with a deep meaning. Maybe he was not a dead loss and was grossly misunderstood.

  • Do not include your name, "with regards" etc in the comment. Write detailed comment, relevant to the topic.
  • No HTML formatting and links to other web sites are allowed.
  • This is a strictly moderated site. Absolutely no spam allowed.
  • Name: