So..what do you do?

Posted by: Diana Zaharia
on January 11th, 2013 No Comments

“What do you do?”. Most often, this is the question we ask people we meet for the first time. On the surface, it may seem like an ordinary question, one we ask every day so we have something to talk about.

The majority of answers we hear are: I am a director of operations. I am a regional manager. I am the senior vice president. I am in between jobs ..

“The way you talk about yourself is very powerful. Whether or not you are conscious of it, the way you tell stories of your life frames how people see you, and how you see yourself. How you answer the question “What do you do?” is important because it frames your story for you. If we answered in a way that focused on our worries about not knowing where our career was going, then there would be nothing to talk about. But when we answer in a way that reveals our excitement about what we are learning, then there is a lot to talk about. Being comfortable about being lost puts you on a faster track of getting unlost. “ says Penelope Trunk, an acclaimed blogger and co-founder of Brazen Careerist, a career management tool for next-generation professionals.

storytellingSometimes we are confronted with this question especially when we are in between jobs or careers.  The stories we tell make an enormous difference in how we cope with change. “Creating a story that resonates helps us believe in ourselves. We need a good story to reassure us that our plans make sense — that, in [making our next step], we are not discarding everything we have worked so hard to accomplish. A story gives us motivation to help us endure frustration, suffering and hard work,” writes Herminia Ibarra in the Harvard Business Review.

This applies especially for people who are asked by the interviewer how they can be trusted to stay at one company when they’ve changed their mind before. Here is when they can come up with their coherent story. “Don’t hide things because coherence is important. When you’re telling a story about yourself, coherence is the key to making the listener trust you. If you can make your story of change and self-discovery “seem coherent,” writes Ibrarra, “you will have gone far in convincing the listener that the change makes sense for you and is likely to bring success — and that you’re a stable, trustworthy person.”

Share with us your views. What does your story sound like? How often do you take the opportunity to tell your story?

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