How to Answer: “What Do You Do?”

Hannah has just arrived at a networking event. As expected, the first person who approaches her, asks “so, what do you do, Hannah?”
After being made redundant from her six-year stint as an administrator in the construction industry, Hannah is here because she is looking for new job opportunities. And yet, the words that seem to tumble unbidden from her mouth are: “oh, I’m an office administrator, but I’m in between jobs right now.”
Hannah’s lacklustre response, which she repeated throughout the event didn’t seem to inspire any connections with those she spoke to. And in the end, she felt rather deflated.
But, is it really any surprise that Hannah didn’t get out of this event what she was hoping for?
After all, Hannah offered her listeners only the barest of facts in her response. There was nothing to wow and intrigue. Nothing to remember her by.
How have you answered the same question in the past?

People want stories not facts

When someone asks “what do you do?” it’s a pretty standard approach. But that doesn’t mean they expect a standard answer. In fact, when people ask you this, what they are really wanting is to be wowed.
The best way to achieve that is with a storied approach. Stories can:
  • Help you make a positive impression, quickly
  • Hint at the best parts of your nature, without having to brag
  • Distinguish you from the crowd – it’s good marketing!
  • Help others get inside your head more than words on a page can
  • Inspire others to join you and get on board with your career move

Use a core story to highlight self-discovery

There’s no better time to have a core story than during a career transition. And the stories that are most successful under these circumstances are those that promote your own realisations of self-discovery and dedication to lifelong learning.
A core story is a way to wrap up elements of your achievements, skills, interests, values and motivations for you to articulate as your personal brand.
After we spoke on this, Hannah developed a story that she has since used at other networking events and, to her delight, landed her an exciting job opportunity. Here is Hannah’s core story:
I am fascinated with colour, modern design and architecture. While working in admin for a construction company, I realised I was limiting my own life enjoyment by working in the right industry, but the wrong role. It has occurred to me to relaunch myself into interior design and reset my career in this area, which is why I’ve been studying a design course in my spare time for the past six months.
Could you benefit from a better answer to the question: “what do you do?”
Read more about it in my upcoming book written with the career confused person in mind.
Greg Weiss is Australia’s leading career coach. He is the author of “So You Got The Job! WTF Is Next?”. The book prescribes a proven, practical 7-step guideline for new employees so they succeed, rather than fail their probation periods and beyond. Find out more about the book at
He is the Founder and Director of Onboff an online training and coaching platform that helps HR specialists, coaches and recruiters to deliver exceptional onboarding and offboarding experiences for employees.
He also hosts The Keep: The Employee Experience podcast and runs CareerSupport365.
Keyword: what do you do

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