What do you do? 9 mistakes you are making answering that question
10th, Mar 2023
“What do you do?” That’s the first question at every networking event. But it’s also the question implicitly asked when people look at your bio and social media pages. People are interested in what you do for a living but you can quickly lose them if you do a bad job explaining, give them a generic description, or make other mistakes in communicating your value.
Instead, you want to provide a clear and concise response that tells them who you help and how you help and indicates something that is unique or memorable about you.
With that in mind, what are some of the top mistakes you may be making?
1. Providing too little information. Some networkers just introduce themselves with either their job title or profession (I’m an attorney, accountant, etc.). While you’ve given basic information, it’s not enough. For example, who are your clients? What types of problems do you specialize in handling?
The same is true of your Linkedin profile. Your headline (that’s the text under your name), “About,” and “Experience” sections should give people relevant specifics about what you do.
2. Listing everything you do. Many professionals handle different types of clients and issues. However, listing more than a few things will ensure that you are not remembered. Instead, focus on your sweet spot. Highlight your niche expertise to stand out.
This is true when meeting in person and in your written materials like your social media and website bios. Once you’ve explained your niche, you can mention that you handle other areas as well.
3. Trying to cram in too much information about yourself. At a networking event, say one or two sentences about yourself and then shift to the other person. You can follow up afterward with more details. Otherwise, you’ll overwhelm and bore the listener.
You also don’t need a lengthy website bio or social media profile. People don’t need to see everything you’ve ever done, especially if you are a seasoned professional. Get to the point and focus on the key elements that would most matter to the people you want to attract for business.
4. Not explaining how you help clients. People don’t care that much about what you do. They want to know how you can help them or someone they know. Be specific. What problems can you assist them with? How will working with you benefit them? You don’t want to make this a sales pitch but you do want your description to focus on what your listener cares about. Make it relatable to them.
5. Using industry/technical jargon. Ask yourself whether people outside your field really understand what you are saying. Often, professionals use terminology, acronyms and other descriptors that are not clear to lay people and they may be embarrassed to ask. Instead, they will just forget about you. Use plain language and keep it simple in person and in writing.
6. Forgetting to listen. A conversation goes 2 ways. If all you care about it is getting out what you want to say, the meeting will be a failure. Talk less, listen more. Ask lots of questions and respond to theirs.
7. Not tailoring your answer for your audience. Your answer will vary depending on where you are and who you are with. Introducing yourself at an event where everyone has a chance to get up and give their elevator pitch is different than chatting with people at a business cocktail party or meeting someone new at a friend’s backyard party. You should have several elevator pitches that can be adapted for any situation.
Similarly, you should have multiple versions of your bio for your website, social media, and other places where it may appear (ex. membership directory, speaking engagements, articles, etc.).
8. Forgetting to show excitement/passion for what you do. Adding a bit of enthusiasm and excitement to your answer can make it more engaging and memorable for the listener or reader. A great way to do this is to have stories that show people the kind of person you are.
9. Failing to have a next step. If you meet someone at an event, you likely want to continue the conversation at a later date, so your next step may be to exchange contact information for follow-up. But don’t be pushy and make it seem like the only goal of your follow-up is to sell them something. You are building a relationship.
Answering the question “What do you do?” can be a challenge, but avoiding these common mistakes can help you provide a clear and engaging answer that makes a positive impression on others.
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