How to answer the question: What do you do?

The question: What do you do for a living, is a very common question in small talk conversations all over the world, its most often asked in the initial part of a conversation between two people (or more), when they fist meet each other.

Many people just spit out a fast job description when they are asked this question, but that is like deliberately missing out on a great opportunity to let the other person get to know you a little more.

Actually I think that answering this question in an interesting way is important, because it will set light of how you are perceived, do you tell people who you are a clerk at the supermarket or a broker at the stock market? People will perceive you quit differently depending on how you answer this question among others.

Answering this question right are thus a great opportunity for you to make the other person perceive you as an interesting person. And though this might sound like im suggesting some form of manipulation, im really not, I just want to share with you a technique that will bring out your true person, instead of a “profession” based facade.

Since this is a bit abstract let me just give you the method I use:

First of all I will recommend you that you don’t focus on your job.
A conversation with a stranger is not a job interview — It’s not even an interview, the gal of the conversation is to build a connection between you, but this is done by sharing factual thing (like you job title) with the other person. So do not go straight into a job description when answering this question. I would say that this advice apply to most people, even that have a job that they feel define them.

The point of conversation it’s not the factual stuff (your job title) it’s the feeling and personal values behind that decision of that fact. 

Okay so what the h*** am I trying to say here: Well the thing is, that it is the reasons (your feelings) behind the any decision (here: to take that job), that should are the important content of the conversation, because the single best thing that you can share about anything, is what drove you to do that thing. Tell the listener “why did you become a XX” explain “why you have made the choices you did”. Because when tell the person above the ffeling that drove you to get that job, that is when you give a real oppotunity for the other person to relate to you.

The bottom line is that, if you want the other person to be able to connect with you, you have to give them something that they can relate to, and let’s face it – chances are that you are not having the same kind of job – so it can be hard for him to relate to your “job title”. But the opposite is true when you share your feeling, because chances are that he/she have experienced those feelings at one point or another in their life and thus it will often inspire them to tell you about that time. That a true magical moment when to people find out that they share the same feelings, they fell they understand each other, and thus they kind of fell like they are the same – and a connection between them will start to build.

Does this mean that you shoul not ask anyone about what they do? No it doesn’t in fact I would recommend that you ask other people about what they do, first of because they expect it, but secound of all because it give you the oppotunity to ask why they does what they does. For example you can ask them: “”Why they chose that line of work? “or “Why they chose to become a XX?”

Do you see why this is so key, the funny thing is that the question “What do you do?” is originally not an attempt to find out what your job decription is, its instead an attempt to find out what makes you different, different from all the other people on this planet, and thus since you are not defined by your job, you should not answer this question with a job description.

Focus on what unique.

If you take a more general look on the over all goals of any conversation, then the challenge with getting to know someone is that you can’t just ask people “Hi XX, What’s important to you?”. Trust me I tried that, and it leads to nowhere (read: awkward silence), because 98% of people will  begin to list the generic important things like family and friends, or their job. In my experience you would get to know any person a lot better by asking them “how they spend their time”. Because, though we all have the same goals (we want to live a happy life) we all try to reach that goal in different ways, and thus we spend our time accordingly.

Focus on what you are passionate about.
If you work at McDonald’s to support your Ironman training, do not just say: I work at McDonnals! Instead offer the other person some insight in you life, give them a reason for why you work at firm, say you’re spending most of your time training for your dream challenge IRONMAN, while supporting yourself with your job at McDonnal’s. That’s interesting, and it will most often spark a fine conversation. Why..? Because you show perceived value, by letting them know that  your are person worth getting to know – because you set yourself goals and you work hard to reach them, that’s something that most people can relate to.

Focus on how your personal growth lately.
In my opinion life is about contentiously learning, in fact I believe your career should not only be an earning path, it’s should be a learning path. So if you tell someone what you have learned lately, they will not actually care what your actual job is.

Think about it, if the essence of this question is to find out whats unique about you, then your answer should of cause include what makes you unique. What interest you? What are you learning about at the moment? Giving them an answer along these lines will actually says way more about you than the type of job you have.

If you are not evolving and learning in your life right now, ask yourself if you really are living the life you want. Your life matters, live with passion.

Understanding why people ask:

People ask because they where tought to do so, it seem polite. But more importantly people are asking to spark a conversation that you can both care about, this is in your both interest, so be as forthcoming as possible. Others ask because they want to share what they do for a living,  keep this in mind and thus always ask what they does.

If you need more practical advice on starting and carrying a conversation I would suggest that you take a look the this following article: “list of conversation starters

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