How To Answer The Dreaded “What DO You Do?” Question
By Marianne Simon
How do you answer the dreaded “What do you do?” question?
I was standing outside The Cap Theater in Sherman Oaks waiting to see an evening of women’s monologues. The event had been created by a dear friend, Christina Dunbar, who started Artistpreneurs On Stage , a program that supports women expressing themselves creatively.
As was customary, a group of us gathered and began chatting, when one of the women asked me the inevitable question, “So, what do you do?”
I can’t believe how I responded. Even after all the practicing I had done, and all the seminars I had taken, I found myself responding, “I coach public speaking.”
Hello! What was that? What kind of diluted, piddly answer was that? That was not what I had learned. Not what I had been practicing. I had been given the templates and been taught the formulas. Simply fill in the blanks and voila! People will get what you do and then you can work together. But on this evening, I realized I was missing something.
This ‘something’ was what I needed to figure out because the following month I was going to teach a workshop on just that conversation.
They say we teach what we must learn.
I realized that if I wanted my clients to be brave in sharing what they did, I needed to lead by example. I needed to step up. I understood then, that the way to answer to that basic question was not just about our ideal client and how we helped people. It was also about our ability to stand in the truth of who we were and what we believed. To answer that question as truthfully as possible, we had to claim our passion, our gifts, our voice.
The other key component to remember was that our audience needed to understand us. It did not serve to answer a question in English when our partner only understood French. The onus was on us to translate all that whirling of information and passion into a few simple phrases that captured the essence of what we did.
I confess – all this takes courage. Too many of us are accustomed to playing it small, keeping the light dim. We minimize our gifts, our passion, our belief that we are meant to change the world. We answer, “I am an acupuncturist,” “I’m a life coach,” “I coach public speakers.”
On this evening, even amongst friends, I muted my gifts, my talents, my own passion. I settled for the lowest common denominator, the general rather than the specific. I did not stand for myself, the work I did or the people I helped. I answered with the least amount of risk, the least amount of revelation.
They say we teach what we must learn.
What last night’s performance reminded me of was that when we do share our full selves, we naturally attract those that resonate with our message. It becomes so much easier. We become like a lighthouse, a beacon, leading our audience safely back to shore.
The next time I am asked, “So, what do you do?” I will remember that it is an invitation to a divine question. It is an opportunity to shine my light so that those who need me can find me. The next time I am asked, I will take a deep breath and answer:
“I help my clients find clarity in the work they do. I help them tap into their passion. And I help them discover how to communicate that vision to an audience so they can spread their message, attract new clients, and change the world.”
To your journey.
Marianne Simon is the founder of Speak Your Passion, a company dedicated to helping speakers create inspiring presentations that spread their message and build their business. With over 20 years as an actress, director & writer and 12 years experience as a landscape designer, she recognizes the power of Nature and creativity in supporting our dreams and visions. For more information contact Marianne@Speak-Your-Passion.com, or call at 310-399-4899.