Lange International

Tips and Insights

from Lange’s Communication Thought Leaders

"What do you do?"

What to Do When You’re Asked, “What Do You Do?”

One question that inevitably comes up when you’re getting to know someone is, “What is your story?” or, “What do you do?” Many of us struggle to answer this question, possibly answering with our title or where we work (which doesn’t truly tell someone what we do), or we go on and on and on, and it becomes more of a monologue than a dialogue. 

You need to give an answer that is comprehensive but concise. You can use a simple structure to help you. Let’s start with a great example from Lange consultant Kirsten Smith: 

“Hi everyone, I’m Kirsten Smith and I am an executive communications and leadership coach with Lange International. I transform leaders into powerful communicators by providing coaching and feedback so they can have more influence and impact in their organizations.” 

Kirsten started with her title and went into more detail by following the structure: 

I help ______ to ______ by ______. 

There are many structures and variations that you can use, but we recommend starting here to feel more confident and powerful in your introductions. Now, please share with us - what do YOU do?

Small Talk: Three Tips for Moving Past Pleasantries

A meeting, networking event, party, or even the sidelines of your kid’s soccer game. What do all of these things have in common? They are ripe opportunities for small talk. You know that feeling of hesitancy you have in talking with people, because moving past, “Hi, how are you?” feels daunting. You consider not even talking to anyone because the queasy feeling in your stomach reminds you that small talk is awkward.

But what if you went in prepared, and with a different mindset? Here are three tips for moving past the pleasantries.

    • Know your conversation starters. Have some ideas in your back pocket that you can ask someone. These could include things like family, travel, and hobbies. Building from these ideas, you can usually find more information about people’s interests.

    • Listen. Have you ever been introduced to someone and immediately forgotten their name? You have to pay attention and listen. People will naturally give you information about their family, hobbies, and interests in the first few minutes of conversation. When you’re listening and you hear a nugget of information, follow up with a question. Keep asking. People love to talk about themselves, especially when it’s something they’re passionate about.

    • Look for areas where you’re connected. Often times, you will find some thread of connection with someone that you didn’t know about before. This could be somewhere you’ve both traveled, having the same number of kids, or enjoying the same hobby. In small talk, you’re looking for an area of connection so you can dive deeper into the conversation and build a relationship.

Small talk is the tip of the iceberg on what could be an interesting conversation or the start of a relationship. Your goal during those first few minutes of small talk is to look for a connection. Once you find it—and if you listen, you will—building from there will move you out of small talk and into a real conversation. And in a real conversation, the awkwardness will dissipate and you’ll show up as your more authentic self.