As a motivational speaker, I meet a lot of people – on stage and off – and one of the most popular questions I run into (aside from “How are you?”) is “What do you do?”
We are either too lazy to think of another question (wouldn’t it be cool to open with something like, “So, what really cool thing happened to you this year?”) or we as a society have determined that the most important thing about a person is their job. Or we’re just playing the game like everybody else does – blending in. Who knows. But you’ve heard and asked the question too. And in my experience, I have found that nine out of ten people answer by saying things like “I’m a teacher” or “I sell copiers” or “I’m in retail.” We think in terms of I am, I sell, or I’m in… It gets to the point, it gets the job done, and it leads the conversation in the next direction. So what’s the problem? Nothing – unless you are interested in (1) staying passionate about what you do so you don’t get burned out, and (2) picking up business or raising an awareness by getting the attention of that person listening. If that’s the case, then I have one simple suggestion: Change the way you answer that question by simply opening up with “I help…..” instead of “I do…”
Instead of saying you are a children’s librarian, tell me that you take children to worlds they can’t see on their own – that you show them how to make their dreams come true – that you provide a way for them to have a better life. The opportunities are endless, and they all sound more exciting than “I am a children’s librarian.”
You might have to put some time into it, because you might not have ever seen your profession in the light of how it helps others, or how it helps your community. Take the time. When you can tap into the bigger picture and the value you give to the bottom line, it will help you stay passionate about what you do. And it will get you more business.
I recently taught a session where city employees all rewrote their job titles in terms of what it means to the community, and shared it with the others. It was a great exercise and we all walked out a little taller.
So there you have it – one tiny little change you can make, that could make a BIG difference. And, by the way, you don’t have to get a paycheck to answer this question. Believe it or not, you are not the sum of your job description. There are people who bring value to this community and are never paid a dime.
So now I ask: What do you do?