Stop asking “what do you do?” – ask this instead…
It seems like every time you meet someone new at a networking event, social gathering, or via an acquaintance the first question people ask, besides the standard “how are you”, is “what do you do?” For some reason I’ve always hated this question. I think it started back when I worked for a manufacturing company because it was always so hard to give a 30 second summary of what I actually did. Sure, my official title was Customer Service Rep., but it really didn’t tell people what I did. Of course, I dealt with customer orders, complaints, and questions, but I also worked on inventory, handled the shipping paperwork, sent invoices, and even helped in various other departments when needed.
It wasn’t just about trying to explain my job, I also had to explain what the company did, which could get technical, but we won’t get into that. But all that aside, what does my job really have to do with me. My job doesn’t define me, I didn’t grow up saying I wanted to be a CSR. Even now with a job title of President, it still doesn’t help you get to know me any better does it?
So, after years of answering and even asking the question “So, what do you do?”, I’ve decided that the phrase is now dead to me. I’ve deleted it from my vocabulary. If you really want to get to know people, start asking them “Who are you, what are you passionate about?”. Here’s why. What you do is such a small part of who you are. Let’s pretend you just asked me “So Jenn, what do you do?” my standard response is “Well Joe, I’m the President of Red Barn Consulting, a sales, marketing, operations, and biz coaching and consulting company. I pretty much handle all the day to day operations and make sure everything gets done.” That’s pretty boring right. You really didn’t learn anything about me – other it’s my responsibility to make sure shit gets done.
Now, let’s pretend you asked me my new go to question about who I am and what I’m passionate about. Here’s how I would respond. “ Hi Joe, thanks for asking! I’m a wife, pet mom to 3 cats and 2 crazy German Shepard puppies, and an avid animal lover. I work for Red Barn Consulting, a sales, marketing, operations, and biz coaching consulting company, and I love what I do because I get to learn new things, work from home so I can spend time with my zoo, and I handle all the operations of the company – I make sure nothing falls through the cracks. I’m also very interested in Real Estate, own a 3 family investment property, plan to get my license eventually, and I LOVE to travel – especially to anywhere in the Caribbean. I have a passion for baking, I’m a neat freak, but I also love spending time outside getting dirty, at the gym, or relaxing in my pool. Reading is one of my favorite hobbies and I’m a Harry Potter dork.”
Which question gave you more insight in to who I really am and what I love to do? Where you able to find anything that we have in common? Asking better questions leads to better conversation and truly tells you about who the person is. I don’t care if you are a CEO, janitor, or mid-level manager. I want to know why we should be connecting. What do we have in common. When it comes to networking, it’s not all business – it is personal and that’s how you make those connections. I want to learn about people, what makes them tick, what do they love to do.
Next time you attend a party, networking event, etc. give my new method a try. And make sure you let me know how it goes. Let’s try to start a new trend!