Going SoloWednesday, 08 August 2012 13:52
What do you say when people ask “what do you do for a living?” SmartSolo
What do you say when people ask “what do you do for a living?”
This is a vital skill for the sole trader and a key part of networking, marketing and declaring to the world, and yourself, who you are.
If you answer freelance accountant, project manager or even consultant you are wasting a great opportunity to spark interest and ignite a conversation. Even worse, you run the risk of being pigeonholed by the listener’s interpretation of what that job description means to them, and then they can’t hear the next sentence or three, which may be terrific.
Instead of answering with a career choice or job title, tell them what you actually achieve and do through your work, in seven words or less. This is the challenge I was recently set by Toby Marshall via a LinkedIn group, and it set me thinking.
Thinking hard. And it took a week to get that seven word statement honed to a fine cutting edge, with probably more work to do.
So, basically, it’s no easy task and here are five things I have learnt from the process:
1. Go straight to the heart of it because no one is the same as you. So what is at the core of your unique offer to the world?
This is different from market segment speak that tells you to state your point of difference. This is about making a connection between what’s authentically important to you and, out of that, what might intrigue your listener to want to know more.
2. Invent a job description that breaks through the conventions and creates an arresting image.
Here’s a few I have heard recently: Events wrangler, burnout specialist, paleofuturist, chief listening officer, sales ninja, career matchmaker.
3. Avoid jargon so you can be clear, specific and conversational.
For example, take the word stakeholders. Please! It doesn’t tell you anything useful in this context. Make your offer crystal clear so the people who need it can take it up.
4. Focus on the result and tell the listener what will happen.
Two examples: I provide affordable investment consulting and I make investing profitable and easy. The first is about the consultant and seems to be based on a premise that they are cheaper than the next guy, which is not a great sales pitch in the first place; the second emphasises what the client gets – profit and ease. Great!
5. Tell a story. Okay, maybe that’s a bit hard in seven or so words, but if you can create a picture in the mind’s eye of your listener you are more than halfway to starting a conversation that is full of more opportunities to expand on what you do. The previous four ideas should help with this.
And what do I do? Read the first eight words of my new bio at the end of this blog and let me know what I need to do to make it even clearer.
Linnet empowers educators to communicate impressively as leaders. She offers individual coaching in the workplace and via skype, in-house workshops and public presentations. Contact Linnet at or follow her on Twitter @wildskycoach to find out how Linnet’s unique skill and use of language as action can open up rich possibilities for you.
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