How do you respond when someone asks you “what do you do?”. 

If you are like most people, you will answer with a noun:

I’m a surgeon.

I’m a translator.

I’m a CPA.

Of course, the noun you use is just a shortcut, a code word for many activities which you regularly do, and issues you often solve. The problem is, to you that noun represents all of the activities (verbs) you are good at, but your audience probably only sees the tip of that “verb iceberg”.

So what they hear is something like this:

A surgeon is a doctor that cuts people, right?

Does a translator do something similar to Google translate?

A CPA… hm, uh. That’s something that has to do with taxes or the military. Or both?

Even when using verbs, be aware that your audience will also need enough context to hear exactly what you meant to say.

“I shoot animals,” sooo are you a hunter… or photographer?

“I cut out the fat” – cosmetic surgery or video production?

“I mostly do testing and reviewing” – education or the software industry?

For best results, try to answer “what do you do” with a verb or two, and then use the whole “iceberg” by telling a story about a problem you solved for someone similar to the person asking. If they enjoyed that,  tell another story until they get it. With time, you will only need one story, because you will instinctively choose the right one.


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