How to answer the dreaded question: “So tell me, what do you do?”

Like most writers, I’m a natural introvert (ignore what some of my friends will tell you). For me, the very phrase “working a room” has the same effect as:

catching your teeth on the opening of a canned drink

being trapped in a small room with a larger-than-average moth

insert your particular phobia or teeth-on-edge trigger here.

So last week I took myself off to a networking course at the London Chamber of Commerce.

It was hosted by Stephanie Peckham of Smarter Networking and I can heartily recommend her as an approachable, engaging trainer. I’m actually quite looking forward to my next networking event – progress indeed.

One of the things that Stephanie covered was: how to answer the dreaded question “So tell me, what do you do?”.

Now, even though I spend my days helping clients market their businesses, I’m not so great at articulating What’s So Great About Me (you see, I really am an introvert), so I found this particular aspect of the course very useful.

Stephanie dismissed the idea of the “elevator pitch” (funny how that phrase doesn’t have the same ring to it if you anglicise “elevator” to “lift”).

The idea, she said, isn’t to have a pin-your-target-to-the-wall-and-sell-yourself-to-them-in-60-seconds-or-less speech, but to get certain essential bits of information across during the conversation. The idea is to make sure the other person leaves the event having “got” what you’re all about.

The secret, she said, is to have a very clear idea about who you are and what you can offer. To organise your thoughts, write down your responses to the following prompts.

I’m [your name]

I’m a . . .

I specialise in . . .

My approach is . . .

I add value by . . .

A quick story about what I do.

It’s a useful exercise and having done it I now feel much more confident about my ability to articulate what I do at my next networking event.

My responses are below. Try the exercise out yourself – and feel free to share your answers in the comments.

I’m Clare.

I’m a . . . writer and grammar guru.

I specialise in . . . I can turn my hand to just about any topic, but my particular interest is in financial services. I help my clients with anything involving the written word – speeches, websites, brochures, presentations, proposals, staff magazines, articles in the press, even emails.

My approach is . . . to help companies ditch their jargon and gobbledegook in favour of clear, accurate English. I also run writing courses to help business people spot the most common mistakes they make in their writing – and I show them easy ways to avoid or correct them. The courses are always fun and interactive, because I believe that with writing you only learn by trying things out.

I add value by . . . helping companies build stronger relationships with their employees, clients and industry peers. I do this by encouraging them to talk to people in language that’s clear, engaging, inspiring and – above all – human.

Quick story: Most people are expected to write as part of their job but many find it really stressful and time-consuming. Writing is what I do all day, so it’s easy for me. Every week some client calls me up, saying: “Help! I’ve been looking at this piece of text all day. I just can’t work out what to do with it but I know it would take you about five minutes to fix!”

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4 comments so far . . . come and pitch in!

  1. Integral says:

    I was trapped at a networking party for oversized moths last week.

    Nice blog by the way.

    Sorry I couldn’t think of anything funnier.

  2. Clare Lynch says:

    Now that’s really not fair, Integral – making me laugh out loud and hyperventilate at the same time. A bit dangerous, in fact.

  3. Anette says:

    hi so here is my try…

    I’m Anette.
    I am a pharmacist.
    I specialise in medical and health writing. I like writing articles about diseases, treatments, different medical conditions and some healthy lifestyle approaches.
    My approach is to provide accurate information in a way that is easy for the readers to understand. I research my topic extensively and I check the reputable medical resources. Then I simplify my words and write articles targeted to all people.
    I add value by writing articles that are straight forward and easy to understand. I am a pharmacist, so I know my niche well. The readers can get the point easily and they can understand the article fully. This can help them know how the disease or the treatment works or follow some healthy tips.

  4. Hi Clare, I’m in your udemy courses and thought this was a great exercise! I’m introvert too and can relate to all your words.

    So, here we go:

    I’m Alexandra

    I’m a . . . consultant and teacher

    I specialise in . . . structure and systems for a productive worklife. Mostly for business owners who are years in business.

    Offline I optimize their daily workflow and teach them how to get back their time for a healthy living.

    Online: I’m online since 1993 and so I can teach my clients all the things they need to suceed with online marketing and social media.

    My approach is . . . to teach my clients to build a business without burnout. I do this with 1 to 1 Coaching and practical help at their offices. I also run online courses for people who want to learn a system for paper work at home and how to be productive during their working hours.

    I add value by . . . practical tipps, precise feedback and helping them building the systems they need. Many of my clients are on the edge of burnout and to preserve them is my biggest concern. I stay with them through the rough times and help them get healthy and focused. My biggest wish for every client is always that he will laugh again and find back to the joy in his life.

    A quick story about what I do. Most people don’t think about their daily structure. They work like they always did. There was no subject in school or university with the topic “healthy productivity”. Over the years the workload piles up, but the times stays the same. The solution is mostly to work more hours, to hustle more, to do more of the same. This could bring everybody to the ground and most of my clients are really on the edge.

    The good side of this szenario is that they really willing to change their lifes. And when they are committed magical things can happen. My actual client calls me her guiding star and if you need one too I’m here 😉

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