Don’t Ask “What Do You Do?” Ask “Tell Me Your Story?”

Don’t Ask “What Do You Do?” Ask “Tell Me Your Story?”

By |2018-09-12T15:55:54+00:00September 10th, 2018|Categories: Business Advice, Business Stories, Entrepreneurial Advice|Comments Off on Don’t Ask “What Do You Do?” Ask “Tell Me Your Story?”


It really doesn’t matter whether it’s a personal social encounter or business networking event, inevitably the same old question comes up:

“So tell me, what do you do?”

1. It’s a screening question that’s callously used by social climbers and status seekers.
2. It’s shallow. Too often, the people asking could really care less. They’re taking inventory.
3. What we do, isn’t necessarily who we are and superficiality isn’t a garment I wear well.

Have fun in social settings


To appease my internal disdain for the “what do you do” question, sometimes I’ll have fun throwing off my inquisitors and accelerating the inevitable polite disengagement with humor. For instance in non-professional social settings when someone asks me “What do you do?” I give them one of two replies:

1. “I’m a porn star.” (I use this as humorous icebreaker in social settings.)
2. “I clean Porta Pottys.” (This is my favorite when it’s clear the person asking really doesn’t care)


It’s probably wise to never ever respond directly to the “What-do-you-do” question in a professional setting. Instead try responding to their question, with this question: “I’d love to share but first tell me… what’s your story and how did you find yourself here today/tonight.” When we ask someone to share their story we demonstrate rare, genuine interest that transforms what would have been a meaningless, superficial encounter into a positive PROFESSIONAL EVENT that is certain to be remembered.

Show you care


In an era where virtual (online) encounters are the norm and conversational skills are on the decline, your willingness and ability to intentionally initiate new, spontaneous, rich, insightful conversations will separate you from the pack. Everybody has a story. Months or years from now the details and nuances of former conversations may be forgotten, but people never forget how you made then feel. Separate yourself from the crowd. Have fun. Be authentic. Show you Care.


Christopher Bell, III

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About the Author:

StealthEnomics™ Chief Operating Officer, Christopher Bell III aka "The Business Janitor" cleans up business & life messes serving high-performance professionals and their teams as a business optimization leader, technology sales expert, keynote speaker, blogger, and coach. His clients are bottom-line focused, value time, and prefer performance over pedigree.
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