It can be the absolute worst question to be asked. It’s like there’s a trap door under your feet and if you give the wrong answer, you’ll fall right through.
And sometimes it feels like people are trying to put you in a box – as though how you make your money defines your value.
Denise Logan of Chase What Matters told me that. She believes the question “What do you do?” is way too limiting to capture all that you do, all that you are, and all that you’re trying to accomplish in the world.
So, just for fun, she answers with “I’m The Chief Sparkle Fairy”…
…and that inevitably and delightfully gets a conversation going.
Even when it’s intimidating to be asked, that’s really what The Worst Question is about, right?
It’s an icebreaker. An invitation to connect.
“So what do you do…?” really means “You look interesting…can we get to know each other better?”
It’s exactly like the lyrics Louis Armstrong sings in What a Wonderful World:
I see friends shaking hands
Saying how do you do
They’re really saying
I love you
So, now that you know the trapdoor is no longer a trapdoor but an invitation and an opportunity, here are 2 inventive and inviting ways you can answer that question.
The First Way to Answer “What Do You Do?”
One way to answer the question about what you do and get a conversation going is to invent a creative job title. For example, I’ve decided I’m a Chief Storytelling Officer – and my LinkedIn profile totally agrees.
Yes, Denise is a Chief Sparkle Fairy but she’s got a more practical – and still creative – title, too: Chief Inspiration Officer.
That’s critical: even if you invent a quirky conversation starter of a job title, you still need one that can more quickly be understood.
People you haven’t met yet and who’ve never heard of you, for example, probably aren’t typing “Chief Sparkle Fairy” into Google. Instead, they’re searching for something practical and prosaic like “health coach.”
If you want to meet these people and have the opportunity to answer “What do you do?” then it’s important to feed Google lots of “health coach” breadcrumbs to follow back to your virtual house.
Once they’re there, you can tell them you’re prefer to call yourself a Soul Alchemist or Life Optimizer – and why you prefer that title.
They’ll remember you and they’ll love you for it.
The Second Way and Most Important Way to Answer “What Do You Do?”
There’s another way to approach the question and this one is deeply important to me. Mainly because it forces us to look beyond the labels we create for ourselves to the results our clients experience.
It moves us out of ego and into empathy. Reminds us why we’re driven to make a difference in the world. Reminds us of our bigger mission. The mission that’s bigger than our bank balance.
(Although that’s important, too. After all, we’ve gotta pay the bills. Like Simon Sinek said, “It’s okay if we like money. Just remember to love people.”)
Here’s the reframe:
How do you help people?
It’s less about you than the people you serve – and I’m willing to bet you could talk for days about that.
That’s your invitation to the person you’re talking to.
Because when you’re lit up and fired up and impassioned about what you do, people will be drawn to that. They’ll want to know more…about you, about your work. They’ll want to be in your orbit – and invite others to join them there.
After all, that’s what answering this question is all about in the first place.
Helping others. Connecting. Reaching people from a place that’s real and authentic and true.
Louis Armstrong would be so proud.
I’d love to hear all about what you do.
How do you help people?
Tell me in the comments!
Psst, you can use the answer to “How Do You Help People” all through your website copy, too.
That’s why this question is so important to me: because I use it to help my clients get clear on what they offer and how they help…and then we weave it through everything.
If you’d like to connect about your copy, I’m ready when you are.