Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

How To Powerfully Answer the Question: What Do You Do? [Guest Blog]

By Dorothy Tannahill-Moran | Dec 15, 2015 | Candidate Tips

A cartoon businessman/superhero saying 'I'm businessman, super businessman'“What do you do?”

How many times do you think you’ll get asked this predictable question at Christmas?

Now consider, how many times you’ll ask this question, before completely forgetting the recipients response (probably within seconds)…

So will your answer be any more memorable?

During such seasonal soirees, you’re guaranteed to rub shoulders with influential people who could further your career (or perhaps know someone else who could) – so why not take advantage?

According to Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, the “Introvert Whisperer” and expert career adviser, savvy professionals will be using the holidays as a great way to network and show off their personal brand.

This week, Dorothy shares her thoughts on the matter with this intriguing guest blog…

How To Powerfully Answer: What Do You Do?

two people shaking hands with caption - you are more than a job titleAt this holiday time, parties abound and with them the opportunity to expand your network is huge.

It’s important that you make a lasting impression with the new people you meet and that impression isn’t just about how you look.

A real lasting impression is based on helping the other person anchor their understanding about YOU to something meaningful.

The problem with most new encounters is they are rooted in a poor response to the time-honored question: What Do You Do?

We are trained to respond with our job title or a close resemblance of a job title mostly because the vast majority of people respond in that way.

It doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do.

What’s the problem with answering with your job title?

Let me list a few:

Problem 1 – It’s predictable. Like I said, the vast majority of people respond with a job title. Predictable is boring which equates to “forgettable”. Do you want to be forgettable?

Problem 2 – It’s boring. This could go with the previous one but I’m trying to make a point.

Problem 3 – The brain shuts down if nothing interesting is said. Interesting is something that the other person can relate to and perhaps take advantage of at some point in the future. It’s the WIIFM effect (what’s In It For Me?)

Problem 4- Job titles are rarely relatable. They’re usually made up on the spur of the moment & are often so cryptic that only insiders can understand. Job titles are babble.

You can make the right impression, be memorable and be a standout in all of those gatherings this year.

All it takes is a great alternative to using a job title.

So what’s a better response?

To craft a great response, you should first consider:

What do you accomplish or what results to you obtain?

You probably obtain a number of really great results, so what are the ones you want to be known for?

An example would be if you were a project manager, one of the results you obtain is timely completion of X type of projects or it could be the size of the project or being under budget.

What kind of impact do you make?

Similar to the previous question but another way to look at the work you do.

Does your project save time, money, make money or reduce workload?

This is where you think in terms of the impact your results have on business or people.

Who receives the benefit from what you do?

This is important because this is where your newly acquired friend can start relating your work to them or people they know.

(Its good to “know people” in this case, YOU)

Does your work impact business owners in the power sector? Or individuals with ambitions? Non-profits?

Create a powerful one-liner!

Now that you’ve got these things in mind, it’s time to add a verb that applies to your work and use these elements to create a seriously powerful and memorable introduction. Keep it to 1 sentence.

It could sound something like this:

“I manage projects for medium sized factories that cut down assembly time and save the company 50% of labor cost” or…

“…I show my clients how to lose up to 20% body fat without feeling tortured while they do it.”

These aren’t boring or predictable and will help new people remember you.

Also, when you respond to that inevitable question of “What do you do?” this way, it helps keep the conversation going which is the sign of a good conversationalist.

You will need to write down and practice your response so it starts feeling comfortable and second nature to you. Then, go to those holiday parties and be the rock star.

Are you considering your Personal Brand at parties?

Probably not.

Dorothy makes a great point; over the festive season (and in general life, really) you’re guaranteed to brush shoulders with people who can help you (or your career) in some way.

The trick is to work out how you can “help” them and to use that to start building your personal brand and getting your name out there – you never know when an unexpected door might open.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

We’ve talked about creating a killer personal USP before and it can be an incredibly powerful tool for a job-seeker.

Receiving thousands of CVs per vacancy can take it’s toll on the recruiter and if you’re not memorable or different… you simply won’t get that far.

For more top-notch advice on developing your personal brand and writing unique, memorable CVs and job applications, click here to sign up to this blog.

If you’d like to hear more from the fantastic Dorothy Tannahill-Moran about how to accelerate your success and create a ‘wardrobe’ of ways to talk about you, check out her new book: Elevator Speeches That Get Results or head over to her website:

Have a lovely festive season!


- Dorothy Tannahill-Moran
Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a certified life and career coach. Known as the Introvert Whisperer, she works with introverts who are looking to stay authentic & achieve real career growth. With over 21 years in management, Dorothy’s motto is “it’s not JUST a job; it’s half your life – so love your career.”

> More blog posts by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran

Get in touch with us.

Telephone: 0121 362 2300
Or send us a quick message and we’ll call you.
*These are required fields
Please leave this field empty.