Networking: How To Answer the “So, what do you do?” Question

All of us have heard the old saying,” It’s not what you know but who you know.”  I say in this job search market, we need to rewrite this to read “It’s who and what you know.”  Knowing someone will hopefully get your foot in an otherwise closed or hidden door for a meeting, but you still need to know your field and have the skills an employer needs to actually get hired.

The “who you know” part of networking can include people you meet on the street, so to speak, as well as your current group of friends, family, and professional contacts.  Particularly the new contacts you meet at a Saturday barbeque, at church, even at the grocery store will need to learn quickly what it is you do, what you’re good at, and what type of job you want & in what field.


This will NOT be you .... right?
This will NOT be you …. right?


I don’t recommend you carry your resume around to pick up the milk or to your son’s friend’s 7th birthday party.  I’d much rather you develop a quick summary of what sort of work you’re looking for and key skills that you can share with anyone you meet out & about in the world.  This is commonly known in job searching lingo as your “30 second commercial”, or “elevator speech”.

Here’s 3 tips for how to compose, and deliver, your “30 Second Commercial”:

Start with a 10-Second Tag Line

First step:  prepare a “10 second ‘tag line’” to answer the questions “So, what do you do?” or “What type of work are you looking for?” in polite conversation.  Keep it short and simple, but complete enough to get your message across clearly without talking too long or including too many details. For example, “I have a social services background working with youth at risk, and I enjoy teaching life skills topics to teens.” or “Well, I have worked for 15 years as an Administrative Assistant for a large insurance company, and I like the corporate culture, and planning company events.”   This is enough information to sketch a picture of you in your working life without boring anybody or taking up too much time. Create one for each type of job or industry you are interested in.


Start by thinking about what a few versions of your “10 second tag line” could be, and in the next post we’ll expand it to your “30-second commercial” (aka “Elevator Speech“), and get to the third tip, too . . . Click on the links for more helpful tips!