What Do You Say To “What Do You Do”?

When you are at a function of some sort and you don’t know everyone there, someone is bound to ask you that dreaded question. What do you say?

Episode 66 Blog

Most of us take the question to mean, “What do you do for a living?” so that’s how we tend to answer it, often putting ourselves down in the process with replies like “I’m ‘just’ a mum/accountant/brain surgeon”, whatever the case may be. Yes, the wording of the question itself tends to refer to paid work of some kind, but the underlying intent is that the person wants to know more about you.

Potential employers have a better approach. They often use the question, “Tell us about yourself”, yet we still tend to limit our replies to the work we have done. We don’t have to, though. As Alex Honeysett points out in her article for The Muse, 4 Messages You Need to Know (and Nail) to Pitch Yourself

“We often rely on our credentials to tell our story, when really, those only tell part of it. So, fill in the rest of the story. Let whoever you’re talking to get to know your personality, your unique experiences, and your motivations. Unless you’re a convict or a total jerk, sharing your story is only going to move you up the list of candidates.”


Paint a picture of yourself

You don’t have to go into a full-scale elevator pitch or tell people your life story. Just throw in a few lines about the things you like to do. For example:

  • I run an accounting firm Monday to Friday, then on weekends, I love to go bushwalking.
  • I wear a few different hats. Some days I study, some days I spend with the kids, and some days I do freelance work from home.
  • I am an awesome cook, movie buff, and bookkeeper.

You can pick and choose what you want to reveal about yourself - and there are things you probably shouldn’t share at your first meeting with someone. (There is such a thing as too much information.) However, including general details about your family and interests is a great way to give others a glimpse of the ‘real’ you.


Making connections anywhere, anytime

Whether or not you are deliberately setting out to expand your network or find job opportunities, sharing a bit about yourself when you meet someone new can lead to all sorts of interesting possibilities.

When Paul Meissner and Dave Boyer shared their networking tips in the From The Trenches podcast episode Networking The Trenches Way, Paul noted:

“You shouldn’t discount people or events or places as not being worth it … job referrals can come from the strangest of places and the most innocuous of discussions.”


Reframing the question

If you are the person doing the asking, there are far more creative ways to find out more about the person you’re talking to. Courtney Seiter from Buffer.com shares a list of alternatives in her article 27 Questions to Ask Instead of “What Do You Do?”

They include:

·      How do you spend your days?

·      What do you do for fun?

·      What’s something you’re really into right now?

What are some other questions you could ask to help you get to know a person?


Links in the chain

This form of networking can bring all sorts of different opportunities, not just job opportunities. Finding out you have common interests can lead to new friends or hobbies. Maybe you can be the go-between that links other people together? For example, you might discover that the person you’ve just met is looking for a new housemate while someone else you know might need a new place to live. Maybe you share a love of crafts or sports?

Who knows, that person at the party might just know the person offering the job that you’ve applied for, so they could put in a good word for you. That’s the magic of networking. Open up and all of a sudden, the links start coming together in ways you never expected.

You might also like our articles:

Why Do I Need To Know My ‘Why’ Anyway?

Rediscovering LinkedIn: The Networking Opportunity At Your Fingertips

8 Online Branding Tips For Accountants


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Many of the themes in this article came from From The Trenches episode 66, Networking The Trenches Way, presented by Paul Meissner and David Boyer. Paul & David are passionate CA's who care deeply about the accounting industry.

Paul quit his accounting day job seven years ago and now owns and runs the Melbourne-based firm, 5ways Group Chartered Accountants, and his online Freedom Accounting System firm which allows him to travel and work from anywhere.

For the last 4 years, David has worked as a Virtual CFO. At the start of 2016 he co-founded the Virtual CFO Association and in December 2016 his company, Sequel VCFO began franchising to mobilise the experienced work force of accountants in industry and bring their expertise to SMEs.

Together with their impressive list of guest presenters, Paul and David are the brave souls needed to fight through the noise and give accountants in practice the support and information they deserve.


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