When you meet new people in a professional networking situation, and often in a personal situation, the first thing they will ask you is, “So, what do you do?” 

Depending on how you’re feeling about your business or career, that could be a question that makes you freeze up. You might not have practiced your response, even though you should have known that everyone would ask it. 

If you’re in a business pivot or career transition, this question can make you want to run out of the room screaming. 

Or, you might want to instantly disappear into the floor.

Oddly enough, in other countries, this question is considered rude and too forward in a casual situation. 

When someone new joins my coaching group, I usually let them watch for a while to see how we interact with each other. I don’t tend to ask them to tell us what they do or about their professional experience because I know that things are shifting for them if they are a client.

Recently, a woman joined our call for the first time, and at what I thought was the right time, I asked her to share a little about her professional background. She went pale and I could see her start to freeze up. I immediately said, “Okay, that’s the wrong question. What are you excited about?” 

She immediately brightened and shared that she and her family were going on a vacation the following week and she was really excited about that.

Much better! My intention is never to make someone uncomfortable, and there will be plenty of opportunities for them to talk about their professional background. 

But this got me thinking.

I believe I am going to start asking people what they are excited about when I meet them, instead of what they do for a living. That might be a much better conversation starter. And if it’s something about their business, that is totally fine. 

In fact, if you asked me that question, I would tell you I am super excited about launching my new membership community, Sanctuary, on March 3, 2024. It’s designed to be a respite from 2024, which is setting up to be quite a year of challenge and change. 

My co-coach, Angie Rome Gonzalez, and I have been so aligned on this project. From the moment I shared the idea with her, she was completely on board and started brainstorming with me on what we could do with the community and how we might market it. 

I sat with the ideas for a while and then this service page just flowed out of me. Angie made some suggestions for edits, and then we were off and running. 

Angie has been doing a content-drip marketing series on Facebook and LinkedIn that hits me in the heart. 

So, the next time you are tempted to ask someone what they do, consider asking them what they are excited about. You might see them light up and share about a personal pursuit or a business initiative.

And whatever they say will likely be more interesting than their canned response to what they do for a living. 

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash