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How to answer “What Do You Do?”

June 29, 2011, 2:33 pm
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When asked the question of “What do you do?” or “What do you do for a living?”, how do you respond?

Most people answer the question as it pertains to how they generate income for their family. For example, one might state that he is in construction or that she is a lawyer. If you asked 10 people what they do for living, generally their occupation will be the leading answer to the question 8 out 10 times.

In context, both questions are asking the same thing however how you answer the question will set you apart from any conversation that the person asking the question has had that day. When someone ask you “What do you do?” or its equivalent they are always expecting the answer to be work related. So to shake up the conversation,

Make note of the following:

If someone ask you “What do you do?” ask them tactfully “In regards to what?” You want to make sure that you are answering the correct question. Get in the habit of influencing people to ask you clear questions because your answer may give them more than what is needed or less than what was expected.

When asked “What do you do for a living?”. Understand that “Living” as used in that question equates to Livelihood. So the question should be “What do you do for your Livelihood?” and if the answer is still what you do to generate income then your life is based on your job and everything else is just a bi-product.

Livelihood equates to the means of keeping alive according to If this is true, when your life is defined by your job, what happens if you loose your job or your business or you hate your job? Do you loose your life? Although it may feel this way if you encounter an unfortunate circumstance, a source of income is always available if you learn how to seek out opportunities. So a job or occupation does not adequately define what you do for a living.

Your true livelihood or what you do for a living should be based on what drives you to get up in the morning and inspires you to keep pressing forward with a smile. Your job or business is what should finance and support your life inspirations, not define it.

When I’m asked the question of “What I do for a Living?” my answer is usually based on what I’m set out to do that day and where I am at the time that I am asked. My favorite answer at a cook-out is “I’m a Professional Cook-Out Crasher…Where’s the food?”

If you are in a business where you depend on referrals, trust me when I tell you, people are more interested in you then your product or service. If you lead your answer with something interesting you allow a genuine conversation to begin. If they like you then your occupation will eventually come up in the conversation. Just keep in mind that the product or service that you share becomes a souvenir that they want to purchase as reminder of their experience with you and as a result they are willing to share the story with someone else. So make their experience fun and speak above the normal conversations that people are used too. They’ll love you for it!


Author: Diego Hodge
Diego Hodge, is an authority on entrepreneurial development as it pertains to Networking, Presenting and Following Up. As founder of the consulting, training, and research firm bLaBbErWoRkS Experience Concepts, LLC. Diego uses his 20 years of experience as a successful entrepreneur, an author and trainer, to counsel enterprises on how to dramatically accelerate the development of business by building effective relationships. Diego is a thought leader and a philanthropist. He lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and six children and can be found online at
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