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Let’s to speak you’re attending an occasion for work.

You are watching: What do you do for a living meaning

You understand some of the attendees, yet not every one of them. Some civilization are handing the end cards; others room talking to their colleagues.

How execute you prize the question: "What carry out You do for a Living?” (photo source)

After getting a drink, girlfriend head end to her friend.

Then someone joins you, and also after a brief development asks, “What execute you carry out for a living?”

We hear this concern a lot, we ask this concern a lot.

But few of us think hard around what our answer way to others.

The usual Responses come the Question: "What do You do for a Living?"

Some people immediately answer this question with their job title.

Those who respond through a general job title sometimes do the to protect against confusing people, favor Anna Daugherty, a Digital Marketing Manager at PITSS America LLC.

“When world ask me what ns do, the shortest answer I give is: I"m the marketing manager for a tech company.”

It’s short and to the point, but it doesn’t fully describe what she walk or the type of modern technology company she works for.

Compare this with saying, “We’re experts in application modernization and digital revolution for heritage Oracle systems,” i beg your pardon Daugherty agrees is a mouthful and often leads to blank, perplexed stares in conversations.

Others shot to be funny or stop the question entirely.

The truth is, it’s difficult to blame people who try to prevent the concern with humor. Who knows, they might have tried comment directly prior to but got tired of explaining the complexities of their job, or the stereotypes they had to transaction with.

The True Question

If friend think around it, the concern “What carry out you execute for work?” deserve to be construed in various ways:

How carry out you earn a salary?How lot do friend make?What is your social status?Are friend richer 보다 me?Is my project title above or listed below you?Is this human being worth mine attention?

That’s why in part cases, questioning someone what they do for a living deserve to come across as offensive.

Situations wherein this question is Offensive

1. A Condescending Tone

Asking this question with a derisive or arrogant tone sends the wrong message. It’s together if you assuming the other person is unemployed or earning much less than girlfriend are.

2. At a Hospital or religious Service

Places where human being might it is in grieving or encountering a complicated time in your life aren’t good venues for such a question.


These world are stressed and also burdened with problems, which provides them susceptible to see the inquiry in a negative light. The question can be understood as, “Maybe you not working hard enough or probably you’re no earning enough, otherwise this wouldn’t have happened come you.”

3. Cultures That worth Privacy

Asking “What do you do for a living” is attack in part European countries, because it’s seen as an invasion of their privacy.

As some Quora answers indicate in this thread, job-related matters no openly discussed with strangers in europe countries, and also it’s no a culturally welcomed conversation starter choose in the U.S. Lock would fairly you ask around their choice in holidays spots and also sports team, at the very least according to the thread. 

The prestige of answering Well

Behind the dual meanings, this question offers you a opportunity to shape how world perceive you.

Answer correctly, civilization will obtain curious around what you do. If you’re lucky, you can amaze some people and also make rather jealous. You acquire instant credibility and new-found friend in whatever event you’re in.

If her answer is boring, you will do it just acquire a polite nod and the conversation ultimately dies down. Climate you’ll it is in standing on her own, wondering what to do or who to approach next.

Wouldn’t that be impressive to answer confidently and also get a positive response every time?

Answering Strategies based upon Social Context

Since this question deserve to be taken in various ways, girlfriend don’t have to limit your answer to your day job. The ideal answer relies on where and why the inquiry is asked.

Casual or society Gatherings

In this situation, the inquiry “What carry out you carry out for a living” is a conversation starter.

Yes, the boring. But it’s safe to ask and also people are already expecting come hear it.

You could feel uncomfortable answering this question, especially if there are an adverse stereotypes surrounding your job or if few people recognize it. 

Here Is a Conversation i Overheard at a PartyFriend: “I’m a society media manager”Stranger: Oh for this reason you spend the totality day playing on Facebook?”

For some jobs, you’re happy to obtain a monster or funny response like this. Rather just obtain a empty stare due to the fact that people nothing know just how to reaction to your jobs.

Worse yet, some project titles make world desperate come leave your company.

Just imagine exactly how some civilization would react after hearing, “I’m a jae won adviser.”

If you financially savvy, you most likely won’t obtain scared off. Rather are quick to finish the conversation, since they feel prefer the other human will begin convincing castle to obtain an investment account or life insurance. 

Remember, she in a casual event. No one is doing any type of job interviews or searching for anything come buy. Also if such events offer an chance to meet potential clients and employers, that’s not the point of the event.

Next time who asks friend this, shot to gauge their reason for asking.

Then tell castle what you’re passionate about, and also then ask about their interests.

Your Conversation can Go like ThisStranger: “What perform you do?”You: “I’m passionate around cooking and scuba diving. What execute you love to do?”

Your acquaintance will certainly either:

Get curiousTell you what they favor doingGive friend a blank stare, due to the fact that they’re not expecting your responseReply with their job title, not discovering you no ask the very same question

Eventually, girlfriend will start talking about the points you love. 

Isn’t this far better than talking around your task in a party where civilization are trying to forget around their office problems? Events

This includes trade shows, project fairs, seminars, training events, conferences, boots camps, and also any other event where girlfriend meet civilization for occupational or Because that freelancers and those working at startups, this can likewise include network mixers and startup pitch competitions.

In general, you’ll satisfy two species of people in this events:

Regular attendees: occasion participants whose main goals room to learn and also meet new people.Decision-makers: these civilization could it is in speakers, owners, endeavor capitalists, angel investors, or recruiters. Everyone looking to hire, provide funds, collaborate, or execute through someone they discover in such an event is a decision-maker.

Of course, decision-makers don’t to visit these events just to scout people. They’re likewise there to learn and make new connections as well. Therefore they have actually lots to perform and tiny time to do it in.

Because the this, they try to avoid information overload. Decision-makers only talk to civilization that attention them, and also they’re fast to decide that is worth your time.

Below are two methods you have the right to be worthy of their attention.

1. Focus on a Niche

Focus top top a niche to avoid acquiring labeled as a commodity. Below a an excellent example: 

Designer: “I’m a designer specializing in wall surface mural designs for restaurants and also retail stores.”

That sounds much more interesting than merely saying you a designer. If you to speak this, world will wonder if they’ve watched your job-related before.

Here"s an additional niche example:

Health Insurance: “I aid Baby Boomers navigate your entry right into Medicare.”

This is much better than saying, “Our company sells Medicare supplements,” says danielle Kunkle of Boomer Benefits. It identifies your target audience and niche, Medicare and also Baby Boomers.

Kunkle continues, “People stereotype insurance agents as a sort of used-car salesman, and we differentiate ourselves indigenous this by being educators first and salespeople second.” 

Notice the indigenous “insurance” and also “sell,” common words ~ above elevator pitches of insurance professionals, room not in Kunkle’s answer.

2. Point out a difficulty You Solve

Talk around the obstacles or difficulties you settle as part of your job. That even better if you deserve to paint this problem as a dilemma, an worry with no clear solution.

Example because that a Fitness Trainer: 

“I’m a Fitness trainer specializing in developing easy and also fun exercise programs because that clients who don’t reap going to the gym.”

The an initial question you’ll probably gain with this arrival is, “How execute you perform that?” Others can think you produce home practice videos climate upload castle on YouTube, however either way this solution gives girlfriend an chance to proceed the conversation.

You can think these two techniques only use if you have actually an amazing profession. It is why I used commonplace jobs as an example.

Whatever you do, you have the right to make it sound interesting by highlighting your specialty or the difficulties you solve.

Networking Events

“What perform you do?” is a usual question in networking events.

Whatever job title or summary you usage to price this inquiry barely tells the whole story that what girlfriend do. Yet the mere point out of a task title potentialism triggers civilization to judge you, based upon what they understand of her work.

A pair Clear examples of This

Job 1: Programmer in Silicon Valley

Stereotype: Cushy 6-figure salary, stares in ~ the computer system all day, probably an over-inflated ego

Job 2: career Coach

Stereotype: “People are either suspicious, or they instantly tell me whatever they hate around their careers. Coaching gets a poor rap due to the fact that it’s much easier to tell rather what come do, 보다 to make transforms yourself”, claims Career Coach Carlota Zimmerman.

To protect against stereotypes, think of your answer as the very first step in to teach the other person about you and also your job. Re-superstructure something tiny known around your profession instead of answering with your job title alone.

Examples of information to ShareLatest events in your industryInteresting info you learned recentlyMisconceptions about your jobWork trivia

3 an ext Strategies to better Answer “What perform You do For a Living?”

1. Share a Story

Tell a story about one that your an ext exciting days in ~ work. When possible, encompass context to aid the listener understand the an ext technical aspects of her job.

Not sure just how to tell her’s story? This accuse can help you:

2. Present Your Weak Side

Being delicate shows humility, which deserve to dispel negative stereotypes fastened to some high-paying jobs.

Talk around the battles you faced in your journey, and also some the the sacrifices friend made along the way. Sharing your mistakes and challenges humanizes you, and makes people more likely to open up up come you as well.

3. Present Others What your Job method for them

Show others just how your project is appropriate to their day-to-day life. Don’t worry; it’s easier than that sounds also if your job is technological or complicated.

Your Job: Penetration Specialist. Sounds boring, right?

Not if you explain it in this way:

Stranger: What carry out you do?You: ns fight negative guys looking to steal her money and also private information.Stranger: are you a police officer?You: No, I shot to break right into websites (with permission) so ns can discover loopholes in their virtual security. Climate I assist them compose code come strengthen their website"s defenses for this reason hackers can’t acquire in come steal her data.

It sounds much more fascinating contrasted to relenten yourself together a hacker or programmer. 

Job: Money Lender for genuine Estate Investors

“I’m a difficult money lender specializing in working with real estate investors doing flips, holds, and brand-new construction.”“When ns tell people this, their eyes glaze, I acquire a perplexed nod, and we relocate on v life”, claims Aaron Norris the The Norris Group.

Now that responds in a means that provides his work familiar to world with no actual estate background.

“Have you ever seen shows choose ‘Flip this House’ top top HGTV? We carry out loans for their projects.”

Norris admits this an answer doesn’t fully explain his work. But hearing the TV show’s surname helps people connect the dots in between what"s top top the TV show and his line of work. 

Some instances Call for Self-Promotion

“What perform you do for a living?”

How girlfriend answer this concern shapes people’s an initial impression the you.

In casual settings, it’s it s okay to prize this v no will to promote you yourself or your

But what about the other times, once you accomplish a decision-maker that can potentially rental you or execute with your company?

You shouldn’t think twice around promoting yourself.

You’re act yourself and also others a donate by talking about what you’re an excellent at. If your skills can resolve the trouble of everyone you’re talking to, then it’s no self-promotion. Instead, it’s a two-way street where you aid each other out.

That’s why girlfriend should constantly have an elevator pitch and personal brand explain ready. Check out these Envato Tuts+ travel guide to learn how to create a an individual brand the goes beyond your job title:

How do you take care of the concern "What perform you do for a living," and how execute you it is adapted it to different social situations? permit us understand your finest tips in the forum.

Browse through our professional resume templates on Envato aspects or GraphicRiver to discover a great resume design.

See more: If I Can T Change Your Mind, If I Can'T Change Your Mind

Editorial Note: This contents was originally published in 2017. We"re share it again because our editors have established that this information is quiet accurate and relevant.