When you leave school/college/university, the usual first questions stop being ones like, “what do you study?” or “do you live on campus?” and the question “what do you do?” tends to replace them.
Now, if you happen to have a job with a title that’s instantly impressive or interesting, “editor for an online video games magazine” or “professional tennis player” for example, then that’s great. But usually it takes a while to get where you want to be in your career, and certainly a little while before you get a job title that comes with instant kudos, or with a job title that’s easily understood.
For some, this means that when a question like “what do you do?” comes up they answer almost apologetically with something like; “I’m a company intern for an office logistics firm” or “I’m a junior graphic designer for an aeronautical advertising consortium”. Not only is the job title a mouthful, but most people won’t be any the wiser about what you really do and certainly won’t know how to relate to what you’ve said.
If this kind of mystifying job title is something you relate to, then the next time someone asks what you do, try keeping these “what do you do?” answering tips in mind.
- Find something in your job that they can connect with.
They might not know a lot about the role of a graphic designer in an advertising consortium, so try and find a way to describe what you do in a way that an average person can relate to it. For the junior graphic designer for an aeronautical advertising consortium: “you know those ads you see on the back of the seat in front of you when you fly on a plane? I help to create the art for those.”
- You don’t need to tell them everything.
If you do a lot of freelancing, you might feel that you need to account for everything you do in your answer. You don’t. The person who’s asked what you do wants to know more about you, not how you spend every second of every day. Pick the job you’re most passionate about and lead with that. “Well, I freelance so I do a few things, but the one I’m really enjoying at the moment is ….”
- If you have something to show, don’t be afraid to show it.
This doesn’t mean try and pitch yourself to anyone who talks to you, but if you’re an artist, or you design websites, or you have an example of what you do that you can carry with you etc, then don’t be afraid to let people see it. As the old saying goes; a picture is worth a thousand words.