Many times when we are in transition or unemployed due to a variety of different reasons, we dread that question that happens in so many social settings; specifically, “What do you do?” Our sense of self is very connected to our careers and we feel uncomfortable when we don’t have a direct answer.
I have some suggestions for creating the answer to that question and being able to state the answer with confidence and authority.
First, if you are seeking to move into a new area, position your change as a “transition” from one career or profession to another. Then your answer to the “what do you do” question becomes a simple explanation that you are transferring from Career X to Career Y.
With the transitioning answer, you also have a wonderful opportunity to network and gain recommendations. Many people will volunteer that they know someone in that field or they will provide information about a company or organization that employs Career Y.
Second, if you aren’t transitioning into a new area, you want to lead with your industry or field when answering that question. Confidently state what you DO within your INDUSTRY/FIELD; practice a short speech, no more than 10 to 15 seconds that will captivate your listeners and make them ask questions.
It isn’t necessary to be a mountain-climbing, sky-diving pirate to make your industry or field interesting to your new acquaintances. Be enthusiastic about your field and your listeners will catch that enthusiasm and want to know more. Their questions will easily lead you into a networking situation where you and your new friends can both benefit from the encounter.
Third, present yourself as someone who is exploring options. You might explain that you are exploring educational options by taking a college course in an interesting area. Or you might volunteer at a non-profit organization that is important to you. Volunteering hones transferable skills and you have the opportunity to network with other professionals.
Do not fear the “What do you do?” question any longer. Use those previously awkward moments to share with others what you ARE doing, not your job title! And, make that question work for you to create fresh networking opportunities that lead to career and professional contacts!