What Do You Do – In As Few Words As Possible?

It’s natural when you meet someone new for the first time to be curious about what they might do to fill their day, ie I just described a nice way of saying, “So, what do you do?”

You know how it goes, you greet someone, you exchange names, and then at some point, someone is going to ask the question…

So, what do you do for a living? Or, where do you work, etc, etc?


Distinguish What You (Actually) Do


Yeah, I know this type of exchange is as common as it is mundane, but it’s safe. For many, it is the opening salvo to engage in a conversation that may lead to a more meaningful exchange. Or not. I think the key, as with many topics discussed in this forum, is your intention.

It is my intention always to understand what people really do. I am bored with an answer that seeks only to categorise the occupation of the person I am greeting. For example, I am less interested in knowing that the person standing before me is an accountant, or baker or teacher – all of which are typical, boring and unhelpful responses.

What I really want to know is, what do you DO?

These people do not do “accounting” or “baking” or “teaching.” These words do not describe the impact of their chosen occupation.

I’m more interested in what they actually do. What difference are they making in the lives of the people they touch?


An Example: Me


“I help people connect.”

That’s how I answer the ‘what do you do’ question. This is waaaay more interesting and useful than responding with I’m an “experiential trainer,” “author” or “speaker.”

Do you see the difference?

In the first instance, I am actually describing the impact of what I do (the more interesting bit) whereas the second option is simply fitting my occupation into a box, which in my case often confuses the other person because they have no idea what an experiential educator or trainer is.

Saying I “help people connect” is not only more interesting to hear, but more often than not, it piques the interest of the other person causing them to want to know more.

“Oh, how do you do that?” That is, tell me more about how you help people connect because that interests me, or perhaps someone I know.

“I use interactive group games & activities to help people connect because I have learned over the course of my 33-year career that this is a really powerful (not to mention, attractive) way to help people connect with one another and strengthen their relationships.”


In the space of a few seconds, not only have I engaged this other person in a meaningful conversation, but they actually know what I do. I help people connect.

A teacher may say something like “I build strong and confident young people.” Or an accountant might say “I help tradies afford to retire early.” A baker could say “I excite people’s taste buds.”

Do you get the idea?


So, What Do You Do? (In As Few Words As Possible)


Can you answer that question, in a short, meaningful way?

I’m not just equipping you with a handy tool to deploy at your next networking event. I may also be inviting you to sit in enquiry about the work you actually do.

Do you really know what you do?

I used to think that I played games for a living. And while interesting at one level, it never really described what I did.

So over to you, what do you do?

If you can, share your response in as few words as possible in the Comments below.


Comments (6)

  1. Mary Henton

    Struck with the point about “impact.” Yes, it’s the impact that’s important. There are a few answers I give: (although I don’t like beginning with “I.” Open to suggestions!)

    – I support early and mid-career professionals through transitions.
    – I help people live and lead with courage, confidence, and integrity.
    – I help leaders become the leaders they are meant to be.

    • jeWElle de Mesa

      thaaaaanks for sharing, mary.

      i appreciate the range of ways to describe what you do. wow.

      will keep on thinking about what could replace ‘i’.


    • Mark

      Nice work Mary – I wonder if you need to qualify your impact even further, eg “I support professional women…’?

  2. jeWElle de Mesa

    Thaaaaanks for this, Mark. What an inspiring read. Hhere goes…..

    I help people experience meaningful continuing connections.


    • Mark

      And from what I know about you JeWElle, this is exactly what you do, with an emphasis on “meaningful” – well played. In the spirit of “as few words as possible” I wonder about the word ‘continuing’ connections, but this is all you.

      • jeWElle de Mesa

        loooooving the wondering. 😉

        i am hopeful that people continue to reach out to others, as one of the results of, and beyond the sparks that were experienced in the shared space, where meaningful connections started.

        i am sure there is a more concise way of saying this.

        wink wink


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