When people ask this, usually they are asking what you do by day for money. It seems innocuous enough. Oftentimes, though, the most interesting parts of ourselves are what’s outside of the work we “do.”
As someone with many interests who has always felt constrained by job titles, while at the same time, tying part of my self-identity to them, I never seemed to articulate the answer very well.
On the gratitude side, however, it gives me an opportunity to continue to refine my professional story and value prop, so not all is lost in the moment.
My answer often starts with some form of “I wear many hats…”
The real and full answer would be something more like this:
- I’m a mom and a wife
- own a business (and all the details that go with that)
- read voraciously and try to make connections between what I read and what people in my network are working on and then I share the most interesting bits with those people
- research social impact, reinventing education, and diversity and inclusion
- go to Meetups
- participate in online forums like Elpha and a number of Slack groups
- generate ideas
- collect domains
- make books and bookmarks and jewelry and websites
- take notes
- use LEGO bricks, Play-Doh, and Wikki Stix as creative problem-solving tools
- listen to podcasts
- write Morning Pages
- We travel
- We ski and snowboard and hike
Alternatives to “What do you do?”
Additionally, bonus points for researching people you know you want to meet with in advance and being prepared with thoughtful questions and things you want to share that will benefit them.
- What has inspired you lately?
- What are you reading?
- When you are not working, what do you do for fun?
- What’s the worst idea you’ve ever had in your life?
- Do you have a mentor/coach or are you a mentor/coach?
- What has excited you recently about your work?
- Do you volunteer anywhere?
- Are you working on any passion projects?
- What lights your soul on fire?
- What about you surprises people?
What are your favorite, beyond the surface questions to ask people you are just meeting?
Additional Reading on Networking for Introverts: