The Proper Reply to ‘What Do You Do?’


Clay Hebert as soon as attended a convention in San Diego. He sat subsequent to a fellow who inquired about his work. “What do you do?” the man requested.

Describing the encounter, Hebert advised me, “That query stumped me. I mentioned I used to be from Wisconsin, and I’m a Packer fan. I ran by way of each metropolis I’d lived in and my favourite flavors of ice cream.”

Hebert had fumbled his introduction to Matt Mullenweg, the founding father of WordPress, which powers roughly 25% of the worldwide web.

Thus launched Hebert’s fascination with how we introduce ourselves and, in flip, how we place our corporations to outsiders.

He and I mentioned it in our latest dialog. Our total audio is embedded under. The following transcript is edited for size and readability.

Eric Bandholz: What’s your story? Give us the elevator pitch.

Clay Hebert: One of many major issues I do is destroy the elevator pitch. No one desires to be pitched in an elevator.

The purpose, as a substitute, is to have an attention-grabbing human dialog. I train corporations, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and workers methods to reply the query you simply requested me: “What’s your story? What do you do?” Lots of people do unbelievable, superb work after which battle with explaining it to others.

My focus began in 2013. I lived in New York Metropolis. A buddy advised me a few convention in San Diego. And I had lived in San Diego, and I used to be attempting to get again there. He didn’t stress me to attend. He solely mentioned, “The audio system can be superb. The attendees can be superb.”

So I purchased a ticket. I went there, arriving a bit late. I sat within the again. The primary speaker was certainly superb. Afterward, he mentioned, “Flip round, meet the individual subsequent to you.” So I turned, and the man mentioned, “What’s your title? What do you do?” That query — “What do you do?” — stumped me. I rambled on and on. I advised him I used to be from Wisconsin, and I’m a Packer fan. I ran by way of each metropolis I’d lived in and my favourite flavors of ice cream.

After rambling for a couple of minutes, I requested him, “What’s your title? What do you do?” He was the best man. He mentioned, “My title’s Matt. And I run a software program firm.”

I responded by saying I used to be into software program, into startups. I then requested him the title of his firm.

“It’s referred to as Automattic,” he mentioned. And that second, I noticed I used to be speaking to Matt Mullenweg, the founding father of WordPress. I didn’t acknowledge him instantly. I noticed I had blown my introduction to the man who invented the software program that powers one-quarter of the web.

So I skipped the subsequent speaker. I walked across the grounds, pounding my brow like Chris Farley, “I’m so silly. Why did I try this?” In order that was the beginning of my fascination with how we introduce ourselves.

It normally begins with, “What do you do?” However how will we inform the story of our work? I’ve all the time been intrigued with positioning, advertising and marketing, messaging. Introducing ourselves, explaining what we do — it occurs steadily. In some type or one other, we work together with new individuals daily. Normally they ask some model of, “What do you do?” Similar to you probably did.

We normally have a fairly horrible reply. So since 2013, I’ve been serving to individuals enhance how they reply that query by making it not about them however in regards to the individuals they assist. And never by itemizing bullet factors, like a resume, however by describing their buyer.

I name it a case story — versus a case examine. Say I ask you, Eric, what you do. Your reply will hopefully immediate me to reply, “What do you imply?”

You’d then stroll me by way of the story of a Beardbrand shopper. Maybe he didn’t suppose he might develop a beard. Perhaps he wished to improve his life, his trend, and his type. His beard was a part of it. And then you definately inform me in regards to the buyer. You inform me his title. You’re taking me by way of his total story. Ultimately, you state with calm confidence, “That’s what we do.”

Inside two minutes, I perceive Beardbrand higher than when you had described your merchandise.

Bandholz: I’ve been assembly individuals my total profession. Networking’s in my blood. However I don’t understand how to reply to people who’ve by no means heard of Beardbrand.

Hebert: It’s not about pounding your chest. The fundamental components is, “We assist individuals.” So, deal with what you assist clients obtain or develop into. It’s not the beard merchandise.

For instance, I used to advise people utilizing crowdfunding, comparable to Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I’d say, “I assist entrepreneurs fund their desires.” I by no means mentioned I’m a Kickstarter strategist or an Indiegogo skilled. I assist entrepreneurs fund their desires. Flip that phrase round, and you’ve got a fairly good web site or marketing campaign headline: “Fund your dream.”

Bandholz: Ours is, “We make males superior.”

Hebert: That’s good. That’s your response whenever you’re on an airplane, and somebody asks what you do. That individual’s response might then be, “What do you imply? How do you try this?” Your reply is to not listing your merchandise. It’s, “Let me inform you a narrative.”

Bandholz: How can listeners join with you?

Hebert: My web site is I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *