What Do You Do For a Living? The Better Way to Answer

What do you do for a living?” – I ask him eager to do some chill networking. As I say this, my mind is automatically thinking: “Here comes another crappy answer I’ll have to work with”.

You might say that’s pessimistic of me; I say it’s more of an educated guess. It’s not that they’re not a lot of people out there with interesting jobs they’re passionate about. It’s just that they haven’t learned or haven’t considered the people skill of talking about them in a powerful way.

You see, answering “What do you do for a living?” in a stylish way is a great method to get the other person interested in the conversation, in your person, and to brand yourself. As a communication coach, there are a number of things I find important in answering this question.

Use a Suggestive Title for What You Do

It’s not important to use the exact job title in your job description in a conversation, even if it’s a business conversation. I sometimes meet a person who according to the JD is an ‘Executive Assistant’, but their job is much more of an HR job. ‘HR Assistant’ works a lot better as a title for them.

The point is to use a job title that realistically reflects the nature of the things you do in your job or the type of impact you have.

There is one answer to “What do you do for a living” that I find particularly bad: “I’m a consultant”. That doesn’t tell me shit about your job! They’re a zillion consultants out there.

Be Memorable

Some titles, they may be suggestive for what you do, but they simply aren’t remarkable in any way. Of course, there are plenty of ways to be memorable; you don’t need to desperately seek being memorable through your job title, but it is certainly a big bonus, especially in jobs where personal branding matters the most.

This is why I encourage you to use a memorable title for your job. Alain Cardon could have called himself a ‘Life Coach’, but he calls himself a ‘Breakthrough Catalyst’. Mars Dorian could have called himself a ‘Blogger’ but he calls himself a ‘Digital Crusader’. These are the kind of titles that stand out and they stick.

Follow-Up with an Exciting Explanation

After you’ve said your job title to answer the question, do not stop there. A title may be cool, suggestive and sexy, but it’s still only a title.

You want to do is continue with a short and powerful description of your job. Again, it’s important to remain clear and memorable. Some things to consider adding to this description are:

  • What you do exactly. Ex: “I speak on the area of Customer Service at conferences all over the world”.
  • What practical benefit you create: Ex: “I help organizations improve they way they interact with their customers and increase customer loyalty”.
  • Why what you do is important for you. Ex: “I believe that good results start with good customer service”.

But Eduard, What If I Have a Job I Hate and I Don’t Want to Talk About?

For this not so uncommon scenario, the first significant thing I can tell you is that you’d better at least have an aim for a different career and know what that career is.

Based on this, when you answer the question you can name your current job and then quickly move on to talking about the job you’re aiming for.

You may say something like: “I now work as a Sales Agent in an FMCG company, but I’m training to become a Career Coach. I have a passion for helping people find their way”.

The more you master your people skills and the better you present yourself, the more you “attract” all sorts of remarkable people and breathtaking career opportunities. And it often all starts with answering in style one simple question.

Image courtesy of Lucid Dreams


  1. Hi Eduard,

    You’ve given me a few creative ideas here.

    When I say that I am a cash gifting sponsor that usually raises a few eyebrows. Following up with “I help people to generate cash without selling or recruiting” usually piques a little more interest.

    As you note, when describing your job in a creative and passionate way you attract all types of interesting people who can help to advance your career.

    Thanks for sharing and have a great week!


    • Well, I’m glad to hear that Ryan.

      I’ve noticed that telling a powerful and resonating story about your job is something that helps a lot in business networking. That’s kind of the idea: follow-up the job title with an interesting story.

  2. Eduard: Great post and great advice. I am going to have to think through revising my answer to this question 🙂 I think I am guilty of many of your “don’t do” examples. Thanks for the great tips and I do agree with you that it really does matter how you present yourself. Great points and insights.

    • Hey Sibyl, I’m very excited that I got you thinking. This is the exact aim of my writing. Have fun with redesigning your answer to “What do you do for a living?”

  3. Eduard,

    Nice, very nice.

    This just reminds me of how large a role
    marketing can play in our day to day lives.

    Inherently everyone desires to be attractive.
    Not just in physical appearance but in how
    we brand ourselves in our vocation in life.

    You explained this so well when you suggest
    we follow up with an exciting explanation.
    With this, you have given us a very nice tool
    to abscond from the mundane and paint an
    adventurous tagline to what we do. This
    will surely attract attention.

    Stay growing.


    • Hi Kevin (a… Tyler) 🙂

      I think that a job title, even if it’s sexy, it still has a limit. This is why a short, compelling explanation of it is something that I recommend.

      PS: your comment shows up in rhymes. Hmm… this is new…

  4. Good point on making your job title sound sexy, but I cringe also when people are deliberately making their job sexier than it really is – like “digital crusader”. That’s like saying you’re a custodial engineer when you’re just a janitor.

    • Hi Henway,

      Mars doesn’t just call himself a digital crusader. He calls most bloggers that. I think that if you’re passionate about blogging and you’re really making a difference with it, the title of crusader is a proper one. In a way, it’s a reminder of the deeper meaning of blogging.

  5. Once we create a title of who we are and what we do. We see how big our dreams are on paper and how much further we can go, if your goals are too minimal.

  6. I’ve always liked Steve Pavlina’s job title, “I am a human alarm clock. I wake people up…and then duck!”

    • Hey Steven,

      I knew about that description Steve Pavlina uses for what he does and I think it’s sublime. It’s one of those descriptions that helped me realize how important presenting what you do in a memorable way is.

  7. Top post dude.

    I’m a motivational speaker and personal achievement coach. Sums up what I do brilliantly!

    How we present ourselves is so important and vital to good rapport

    • Those are some resonating words you use to describe what you do Ben. I do prefer using only one label, but I’ll talk about that in a later post.

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