So, what do you do? One simple question that answered properly could help you get more business.

Change your title from “I am” to “I help”.

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?



Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson - called one of North Carolina's funniest women by Our State Magazine. Kelly lifts the spirits of audiences from coast-to-coast using humor, storytelling, and lives of the characters from Prides Hollow - Kelly's make believe small town. This unique approach to motivational speaking allows Kelly to break through communications barriers and connect directly to the audience's imagination.
Her powerful stories and wacky wit will make you laugh, remind you that you matter, show you how to see beyond your obstacles, and teach you how to stand up and stick out in a crowded market.
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  1. I help overwhelmed, overworked women create balance through boundaries. That’s just one thing this motivational speaker does! Great post, Kelly and so true. I was working with realtors regarding their elevator speech. One lady stood up and said, “I help individuals live the American Dream through home ownership.” Like you mentioned, her passion came through. I can only imagine how incredible you made those city employees feel. You’re brilliant!

    • Colette, I love the words “overwhelmed and overworked” because I think that immediately hits to the pain that many women feel. We don’t walk around saying we wish we had more balance in our lives – we walk around saying, “How come I am working twice as hard for half as much? How come I am always tired? Why do I never feel good enough? Why do I feel like I’m on a treadmill – running and never getting anywhere?”  

  2. Thanks Kelly… I just found your exercise to be really useful… I help people (including those navigating adversity and change) to see new possibilities and to embody new competencies that enable them to move more powerfully through life with integrity and dignity.

    • Paul – Glad you liked the exercise. Want another one? Take that sentence you gave me (which is AWESOME by the way) and write it in another way. (Don’t throw away this version – just giving you another exercise). Pretend that your potential client – the person who will most be helped by you – is lying in their bed at night – awake and anxious. Are they lying there wishing they could see new possibilities and competencies that would enable them to move more powerfully through life with integrity and dignity? Or are they wondering why they got passed over for the promotion? Are they lying there wondering why nobody respects their leadership? Are they lying there under a huge life change they didn’t see coming and they have no idea where to turn and they are out of hope?   Play around with the real (not fancied up) words that are being spoken by the people you help most. You will probably come up with a bunch. And while you want to keep the awesome beautiful “what you do” statement you gave me – also use some statements in your interactions/web/etc that speak to their pain, in the language they are using in their head. Makes a faster connection that makes them say, “YES! That is exactly what I need!”

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