OK, let’s pretend you’re at a conference. There’s a table with tea and coffee over here. Everyone is wearing nametags. You recognize someone across the room, and as you’re walking towards him, you run into a small group.
Someone says, “Oh, meet (your name).”
What’s the first question you’ll probably get asked?
“What do you do?”
AHHH GOD THIS QUESTION.
“What do you do?” is the bane of my existence for so many reasons:
- People lean on it as a conversational crutch. The next time you meet someone, try not to use this question. How long can you go?
- If you’re hitting on someone at a bar, never ask this question. They’ve been asked it 5,000 times that night and now you’re like everyone else. (I have a lot of other dating suggestions but maybe another time.)
Most importantly, we get asked it literally thousands of times in our lifetime…but we never really stop to think about what our answer means to the people around us.
I get it. It seems “weird” to even imagine plotting a perfect response to a question we get every day. So pre-rehearsed, Ramit! I like to be authentic!
I like a lot of things. I also like to understand the way the world really works, and the way you answer “What do you do?” can completely change people’s impression of you.
How do you answer it?
I’ll tell you what I do. For example, I’ve written about how I tested “I’m a writer” versus “I’m an author.” Different answers got very, very different results.
I also asked a bunch of people how they introduce themselves. See what they say here. Notice how a lot of people try to be cute instead of answering the damn question. “I help people conquer their fears to find their dreams to — ZzZzzz.”
There’s a small window of opportunity to totally shape people’s impressions of you.
If you answer correctly, they step back, raise their eyebrows, and say, “Wow!”
On the other hand, if you give a boring answer, like “I work at an insurance brokerage” or “I’m a marketing manager”…”I do a lot with Excel”…or “I like yoga”…they’ll nod quietly and say “Oh, that’s cool…Well, I’m going to get some celery…bye!”
These intangibles — the way you look, the clothes you wear, the way you introduce yourself — matter. As much as you want someone to look inside your soul, peel away the layers of your millennial angst, and give you instant respect…nobody cares. Human beings are influenced by the intangibles.
And if you can change the way people perceive you, while being totally authentic, wouldn’t you want to?
What would it mean to be able to walk up and confidently answer that question with an amazing answer? To get the same kind of “oohs” and “aahs” that people get when they mention that they work at a great company, like Google or McKinsey?
What if you had an awesome job to talk about and amazing coworkers? A job that — when you brought it up — secretly made ALL your friends jealous?
“Oh yeah…I have to tell you about something cool that just happened. My boss just put me in charge of this project, and he decided to fly me across the country to meet someone so I could hit the ground running.”
(Not a hypothetical. I’m flying an IWT team member to NYC in 3 weeks to do exactly that.)
Think about the way you introduce yourself. If you’re bored, you’ll be boring.
If you love what you do, and you communicate that, people gravitate towards excitement.
I want to talk more about this.
- I’ve blocked off the next couple weeks to talk more about “what you do” and — if you want to — how you can change that.
But first, I want to hear how you’d respond.
Would it be a boring response, like “I’m a marketing manager?”
Or would it be something else?
And if you had your Dream Job, how would you respond?
Let me know in the comments below. I read every response.
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