“So, what do you do?”

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:

Alternatives to “What do you do?”

A few of the following dive right into the heart of what motivates people, so use your emotional intelligence to decide what’s appropriate in each setting.

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?

Drop me a line

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Additional Reading on Networking for Introverts: