What do you do for a living?
This question always makes my mind erupt into madness. My tongue gets twisted and I stammer something like “I am a data management coordinator, it’s freelance. I work from home. I do spreadsheets.”
It's a little embarrassing and it definitely doesn't leave a strong impression. So, I took some time this week to write down my ideal response to this question, because writing things down helps me become more confident about them.
These days, I’m a little better about telling people the other thing I do: I am a blogger and freelance writer. It’s not technically a lie, it’s just ignoring the implied “for money” at the end of the question “what do you do?”
It's a work in progress (as everything always is), but I wanted to share the writing practice that I've been using to help me craft a better self-introduction.
Writing your own introduction
First, determine why you need practice doing this. It helps to keep this in mind when you’re writing everything down. Is it because of a career shift, or because you want a shift in perception around you?
Or do you want to become more confident in telling people exactly what you do without downplaying it? I find that a lot of Midwest transplants out here in Los Angeles have trouble owning the good work they are doing because they’re nervous about bragging.
Outline the most common questions
Next, list the questions you're faced with most often. Maybe you’re line of work or social network means that you get different questions, but these are some of the most basic ones:
- What do you do?
- Where are you from?
- What brings you here?
Be prepared to elaborate further on those, especially about what you do.
Free write until your heart’s content
Then, write out how you would like to introduce yourself in an ideal situation. Think of how you can introduce yourself now, and how you might like to introduce yourself within the next six months, just to keep things fresh and actionable.
Don’t lie, but do push the limits of your comfort zone. If you’re tempted to just say something like “marketing,” explore the idea of including more description. Tell the world that you’re a manager, or that you work at a tech company, or that you’re into media outreach or social engagement.
Develop a rough elevator pitch
If you want to take it a step further, go through what you just wrote and pick out your favorite words. I like to list those on a separate page and then string them together to create a shorter explanation of what I do.
Bonus: you can use this on social profiles like LinkedIn and Twitter if you get it just right.
Make it happen
This exercise is intended specifically to help you implement these changes in your social interactions. It will take more than a page of notes to change the shape of your professional identity, so consider doing this at least once a month.
Put a reminder on your phone to check in with yourself, and allow yourself to grow into the introduction you're crafting for yourself.
Lead yourself with your beliefs and your words, and the rest will follow.