What do you do?

Robert de Niro

Hi – What do you do Robert?

I was reading a book by Michael Port called Book Yourself Solid and in it he gives some really interesting advice about answering the question:

“What do you do?”

This is probably asked of you a few times week when you meet new people and it might typically arise at a networking event.

Your typical answer is to use your normal industry label “I’m an architect, an accountant, a solicitor, a financial consultant, a life coach, a banker, an insurance broker, a PR consultant, a social media consultant“.

While this is helpful as it does wrap “you” in a nice simple understandable package, Michael Port argues that this is possibly doing you a big disservice.

Once you mention that “label” you are bunching yourself automatically with every other person who might use the same label to describe themselves. For example if the person has had a poor experience in the past with a “wealth advisor” then the minute you mention that you are a “wealth advisor” they mightn’t like you very much and will politely shuffle away from you!

Imagine Robert De Niro answering the question by saying “I am an actor“!

Michael’s simple suggestion is that instead of using the typical label why not describe “what you do” in a much more descriptive way.

Michael’s suggestion struck a chord with me as I know when I am asked the question “what do you do” I certainly don’t want anyone to put me in the same category as any of the people working in our general area – I am totally different and I bring vast business background and a particular skill-set to the table.

So instead I might say: “Working with a great team I use my commercial experience to make businesses and organisations more successful by first making sure their proposition is presented in the best possible way and then getting as many people as possible to hear about them” …. I could even go simpler with “I work with a really talented team to make businesses and organisations better“.

Oh.. how do you do that?” and then you tell them!

What do you do?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency in Ireland with offices in Cork and Dublin

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17 Responses to “What do you do?”

  1. jonathanleahymaharajJonathan Says:

    As much as this is about what we do, heres an interesting article about what we shouldn’t have to do:


  2. Fergal Bell Says:

    This is very refreshing, Greg. Changing the way you answer the question may lead us to focussing on what is most important in what we do. By making us think about what we are actually trying to do we also remain open to new ideas.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Fergal – the interesting thing is that the question is quite hard to answer properly !

      • Fergal Bell Says:

        It certainly makes you think about what you do. When I started off I tried to think of a way of drawing quite different activities – preparing candidates for job hunting, writing articles and English teaching – under one understandable banner. I eventually began to describe it as – I help English and non-English speakers to improve how they communicate with their target groups – in business or personal settings.

        It’s an interesting exercise when you think of it and it makes you focus on your core activities.

      • Greg Canty Says:

        It’s tricky !

  3. Mary Jane Says:

    I’m an enigma!

  4. Rob Says:

    The idea is great but that first suggested reply would have me glazed over in 2 seconds. Sounds too pretentious. The second one is better.

  5. Boothby171 Says:

    I say, “I’m an Entertainment Engineer.” Turns out, it’s quite the “hook,” in and of itself.

  6. Denis Says:

    Well written…you continue to foster thinking, and self-improvement, self-inspection….in a seamless, interesting manner…well done. D

  7. donnchahughes Says:

    Reminds me of my favourite book which is the Jelly Effect by Andy Bounds. It has four parts to include one on Networking in which he talks about how to introduce oneself. Instead of telling people that he is a ‘communications consultant’ he says that he helps businesses to tell their story. The other tip is that he suggests that you get the other person to introduce themselves first. That way you can show that you are a good listener and tell them a story that relates to them to explain what you do. It really struck a chord with me as I can potentially do lots of different things for clients and maybe one is relevant at any one time. The key is to say something that starts a conversation, to elicit the response, ‘How’ or ‘Tell me more about that’.
    Not too late to say Happy new year. Here’s to a great 2015.

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