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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

How to Tell People What You Do—and Be Remembered

When you’re introducing yourself to new colleagues or potential employers, either in writing or face-to-face, people rarely remember the microscopic details of what, exactly, you do.

But they will always remember how you made them feel.

True story: I was buckled into the backseat of cab, catapulting through the Flatiron district of Manhattan. The driver peered at me through the rearview mirror and popped the inevitable question:

“So, what do you do?”

Normally, I introduce myself as a “communication specialist.” Sometimes, I say I’m a “creative copywriter.” Other times, I say I’m a “writing instructor.” But on that particular morning, I was feeling a bit jazzier than usual. (NYC does that to me.)

Without over-thinking, I blurted out:

“I write about how to be a better writer. Which really means I write about being understood. Which really means I write about love.”

The cab driver’s eyes widened at the word “love.” He smiled.

“That sounds like a very good job.”

“It is,” I said. “It’s the best.”

He dropped me off and I scampered into the business workshop I’d been invited to attend. One by one, each woman in the room stood up and introduced herself. When it was my turn, I whipped out my brand-new introduction and took it for another test drive:

“I write about how to be a better writer. Which really means I write about being understood. Which really means I write about love.”

Dead silence. Then smiles, all around. One woman―a fellow writer, like me―laughed and said:

“Um, yeah. What I do? It’s what she said.”

Nobody in the room knew exactly what I did, or exactly what kinds of clients and companies I serve, or exactly how I structure my services, or any of the “essential details” that we’re supposed to pin down in our “job descriptions.”

But I made them feel something. And it worked.

About half the women in the room approached me that weekend, requesting my business card. Several asked if I was accepting new clients. A few followed up later to sign up for my writing workshops. The event organizers were so impressed, they offered to pay me to coach their clients on crafting their messages and introductions for next year’s program.

Impact. Results. Boom.

All because I brought some emotion into the room.

Now, it’s Your Turn!

Use this fill-in-the-blank template to write a new “So, what do you do?” introduction for yourself. And this time, with feeling!

I’m a [insert your job title]

Officially, my job is to [insert your clear-cut job description, e.g., seek out publicity opportunities for my company / write grant proposals / coordinate our annual healthcare conference for 5,000 people].  

But really? I [insert your emotional job description, e.g., make A-list celebrities fall in love with our mission / help create miracles for underprivileged kids who still believe in magic / create the party of the year, where hardworking nurses get to kick up their heels and go buck-wild!]

To sum it all up: The key to writing a job description that people will actually read, listen to, and remember is using phrases like:

“But really…”

“Which really means…”

“Basically? It’s all about…”

“Which is a fancy way of saying…”

to get straight to the emotional core of what you do, and why.

The people you’re connecting with will probably bounce back with a few questions. They may need a bit of clarification. They might request a simple run-down of your skills and credentials.

But one thing’s for sure: You’ll spark a new feeling. And you won’t be forgotten.

Photo of women meeting courtesy of Shutterstock.

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