I used to dread the question: “So… what do you do?”
It’s the usual thing to ask during polite chit-chat, but I’ve never had a job title that fully described my job, so it’s always been a bit uncomfortable. Whenever someone asked, I’d pause to size up how much they really wanted to hear. Instead of giving my actual job title, I’d usually make up a short response like “I push paper” or “I ask for money.” If I got signals that they wanted to learn more, I’d launch into the mission of whatever organization I was working for at the time.
But now that I work for myself, I can’t even do that.
Lately, however, I’ve noticed that I’m starting to have really great conversations with people who ask this question. Once I get past the initial discomfort of not being able to say it in five words or less, I have a lot of fun explaining my new job and the diverse set of clients and projects that I’m encountering. I’ve realized that the conversation eventually focuses less on WHAT I do, and more on WHY I do it. By the end of the conversation, the person sometimes has someone they want refer to me, or better yet, they want to hire me themselves. This question is turning into a marketing tool.
But it took me a while to get to this. I spent all of last year in this crazy introspective phase (a.k.a. “mid-life crisis”), trying to decide what to do with the second half of my career. Sometime last spring, I took a workshop that really helped. It opened with an ice-breaker where we were all asked to tweet an answer to the question of “Why do you do what you do?” and hashtag it with #wdydwyd.
Here was my response:
All my life, I’ve worked for worthy causes. I’ve taken pride in the successes of the people and projects I’ve supported. But my discomfort in answering that question of “What do you do” probably stemmed from the fact that my job descriptions never fully captured what I could do, or what I wanted to do.
In doing this exercise, I realized that what I love to do is help other people do what THEY love to do. So being a consultant is the perfect job for me. Boiling it down into a tweet gave me this A-HA.
So: Why do YOU do what you do? 140 characters. Go!
P.S. Are you curious to see what other people in the world say? Click here.