“What do you do?”

Is your identity defined by the company, or by what you do for a job/career?

A week ago, Geoff Wood, a local entrepreneur and part of the Silicon Prairie News team, was talking to local tech wizard Jon Thompson of Evolve and I after a morning YPC social.  Geoff noticed something while networking with some fellow young professionals.

Geoff would ask someone “What do you do?”

That person would reply “I work for _________.”

Geoff was intrigued by that.  What does it mean?  Is the person defined by who they work for?  Does that person have an identity beyond their employer (accountant, customer service rep, administrative assistant, etc.)?  Is saying where you work at enough to be looked at as important and credible?

By only stating where you work at may sound “important”, but it doesn’t define you as a person with skills and expertise in a field of work.  What if you turn it around and say, “Hi, my name is _______, and I’m an accountant/computer programmer/lawyer at ________.”?  Would that get the other person interested in what you do, in contrast to thinking “Oh, he or she is one of thousands of people who work for __________.”

Will you stand out in front of the crowd if you talk about what you love or like to do?

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2 thoughts on ““What do you do?”

  1. It was tough starting out networking as an unemployed professional and the first thing people asked me was, “Where do you work?” It was so tough to go out and network knowing that this would be the first question people would ask? Whenever I got the chance to ask the first question, I would say, “Tell me about yourself.” This usually took people by surprise and they ended up answering with their professional title and company name. How boring! I give you an opportunity to be creative and you give me this? Strange…

  2. At a business gathering, I’d suggest a quick position statement or tagline that refers to what you contribute in a business context; “I help people use their enterprise software.” Depending on the response, add “I write technical documents and course materials at _______.” People care about how you might help them, not your current (possibly short-term) corporate affiliation.

    PS: It took me a minute to find out that YPC means “Young Professionals Connection,” an activity of The Greater Des Moines Partnership. I guess the “young” part leaves me out.

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