What you ‘do’ is not what you think

So last month I offered a simple formula to help answer “Tell us about yourself,” without falling into a fast-moving river of dates and job titles and cascading over the waterfall of TMI. 

This month I’m going to tackle another question you can answer with authenticity and confidence… and without a trace of dread or annoyance.  

You’ve been there. That moment when someone on an airplane or during cocktails asks you that garden-variety, horrible question:

‘’What do you do?’ 

Do you really want to know what I do? Or are you just trying to make pleasant conversation, pass the time, or see what’s in it for you?  

How do I make this interesting and clear enough that you get what I do, feel my passion & commitment, and don’t pounce as soon as I take a breath to talk about yourself instead? 

(And, by the way, why are we still so afraid to ask a woman what they do? I call BS on that. Stay- at-home moms do fascinating work too, for goodness sake!)

Grumblings aside, the bottom line is: How can I make a true connection to you? 

I think the best way to start is to NOT answer the question. Yep, you heard me right.  

Let’s NOT talk about what I DO. Let’s talk about what CHANGES for my clients.  The IMPACT you make.  

Sure, start with your title. This narrows down the field a bit so your listener’s brain can keep up.  

I’m a speech and leadership communications coach. 

Then explain the RESULT of your work: I help people speak with authenticity and confidence. 

This isn’t a list of the activities I undertake each day, or a list of delivery methods like 1:1 phone conversations and ½ day workshops. This is what happens for people as a result of those conversations and workshops. After working with me, people speak with authenticity and confidence. 

Then explain why someone would come to you. Describe the struggle your clients or customers are having that makes them reach out for help. Put your new acquaintance right into your client’s shoes with “you” phrases: 

You’d come to me if…

….you want to tell your story

….or if you need help figuring out the right words to say for a speech, presentation, difficult conversation, interview, pitch or fundraiser—even personal stuff like toasts and eulogies. 

Say a little more… 

People also come to me for coaching to get more connected to themselves so that they can connect more effectively with others. You know, to learn how to lead out loud.  

See how that’s not really about what you DO? What I DO is have conversations, ask a lot of questions, write notes, facilitate workshops, organize kids’ carpools and get lost in my thoughts while I walk. But what changes for people is their confidence, presence, understanding, connection. 

Then wrap it up with a values statement. Share what you believe in or love about your work. Say what you care about. 

I particularly love helping people with their story and how to communicate what matters to them and why. These are skills most of us weren’t taught. It’s deep, connecting work and I love what I do.  

When you focus on your values, what you love about your work and the impact you make on others -- even if it’s just your little team of three -- I can guarantee:

A)     You’ll feel more bold and passionate about your work.

B)     Your listener will be intrigued. They’ll hear the significance. They’ll see how you might help them or the people around them. They might go on to ask you questions about the day to day minutiae of your job, but I have a feeling it will evolve into a more meaningful conversation.

C)      And, you’ll feel heard.

Take a moment today to think about how your work changes life for your clients, customers, students, patients, family, friends, neighbors. Zero in on your own values statement. Then go forth and have more meaningful conversations!  

Look forward to hearing “So, what do you do?” knowing you’re about to answer with more than they asked for.

jessica bonin