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You take a seat in a new stylist’s chair. She puts the cape around your neck, gets your cutting instructions and makes some small talk. The awkward conversation has begun, but it’s about to move from awkward to painful when she asks the dreaded question, “So, what do you do for work?” 

This question shouldn’t be that hard. It’s not a surprise question or a pop quiz. You spend all week immersed in your work, yet you can’t even tell a random stranger what you actually do. The question is also getting increasingly harder for many people to answer. In today’s gig economy many of us do multiple things each week, and they are hard to quantify and especially hard to talk about. 

So, why is this question so hard? What do I do about it? I’m glad you asked. 

Because you don’t actually know what you do

Don’t tell them your title (plumber, multi-level marketing ninja, pastor); tell them your quest. You do a lot of different tasks (usually anything people are excited to pay you for), but it’s hard to see how it all fits together in a quest. You want them to known when you are the perfect fit for solving their problem or their friend’s problem.  

Solution: Discover and name your storyline 

What is the one thing that connects everything I do? How can I clearly name this?  

Because your answer it’s too long

People aren’t wired to listen intently as you share six fumbling sentences; they want one punchy statement. If they are interested they will ask for an explanation. I encourage people to use the template: I help (a group) (do something)You help solve a pain point for someone. 

Solution: Ruthlessly distill your answer  

How do I share this in one sentence?

Because your answer sounds boring

Once you have named what you do, you need to tell it in a way that evokes curiosity. Yeah, people should actually want you to share more, because they’re intrigued. 

Solution: Craft compelling words (thesaurus.com can be a huge help) 

What winsome words (clear + compelling) draw others in?

Because you’re doing too much

This is the hardest change to make, but it’s crucial. As you tell people everything you do it may overwhelm them (and sometimes to you too).  

Solution: Eliminate the unnecessary from your work (Essentialism is a great first step!)

What tasks don’t line up with my storyline? How will I eliminate them?

I used to feel this same pain. I find myself doing a myriad of tasks every week. I’ve gone through this clarifying process myself, and I need to continually eliminate things from my life, work and vernacular. Spend the time clarifying this answer and find your stylist intrigued by what you do, asking for your business card and sending her friends your way.