"What do you do?"

"What do you do?"

Here are just a few ways to reframe this common question to help you come up with a more compelling answer.

We’ve all been asked that iconic question of the early 21st century “what do you do?” — it has become synonymous with being asked your name. Everywhere from family gatherings to networking events “what do you do?” doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Your answer to that question is a snapshot into your life and who you are.

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However, introducing ourselves with this kind of shorthand does have it set backs. Labels can often lead to stereotypes and perceptions of people or ideas that aren’t always true. So you need to be able to answer “what do you do?” in a way that will explain your job, and highlight your successes, while making for an interesting, energizing conversation. 

If we’re going to be defining success for ourselves it will help if we can talk about our successes in a way that is interesting to others and truthful to who we really are. Here are just a few ways to reframe this common question to help you come up with a more compelling answer:


You might be a paraprofessional or maybe you help students in the classroom achieve their goals and participate in their day-to-day activities. Doesn’t that sound more interesting? Doesn’t that make you want to know more? I have done this at so many networking events and trainings. It helps to remove stereotypes about your job title and places the importance on your skills and what you bring to the table. Here’s a challenge: start your next conversation with how you help people and see where it goes.


This is my favorite way to introduce myself when I’m doing a training. Tell a story and you’ll be surprised by how engaged others are and how much better they remember you. You also get to provide some context for someone into what you do — other than just a job title. You may need to share your job title, but it's important to go right into your story (personally, I like funny stories).


People really need to lighten up about being self-promotional. People should be able to speak frankly about the things they’re good at and the things they enjoy doing. You should be proud of the skills and talents you have acquired throughout your career. So don’t be shy! You’re doing everyone a favor by opening up and being honest about what you bring to the table and what gets you excited! Don’t be afraid to share the real you and what lights you up. 


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