HOW TO EXPLAIN WHAT YOU REALLY DO
Our whole lives are like an audition. Every single time you meet someone new, you have an opportunity to make an impression, to form a connection and to improve your life in some way. You may have just met someone who’ll give you your next big idea, your dream job or be a friend for life.
Usually, one of the first questions we’re asked in our audition is:
WHAT DO YOU DO?
For many people, myself included, there isn’t an easy answer to this question. What we do cannot be summarised with our profession, because even if someone is a doctor, a priest or a graphic designer, they may also be an entrepreneur, a parent, an avid gardener, an auntie, a tennis player or someone who’s passions lie in their crafting hobby.
There are also many people who’s work can’t be summarised by a single profession because they have forged their own path and their work may be made up of multiple career types, each of which collectively contributes to what they do and who they are.
So how do we answer this seemingly unanswerable question?
THE ELEVATOR PITCH
The concept of the elevator pitch is not new. It was originally developed as a way for people to create interest in their idea, project, organisation, product or in themselves; a brief and compelling spiel to engage the person standing in front of them.
We should all have an elevator pitch that eloquently explains what we do in a way that captures our essence and is intriguing and relevant to the person in front of us.
This takes work. You need to spend some time coming up with a few reliable and authentic phrases that answers the question and leaves the person wanting to know more.
WHO YOU ARE & WHAT YOU DO
The first step is sitting down with pen and paper and actually writing down all the things that you want someone to know about you. You won’t necessarily say all of them in every elevator pitch you give, but it’s good for you to have them all listed.
Your goal is to show a little bit about who you are and what you do without bombarding someone with information and boring them senseless, so be cutthroat with your list if need be. This exercise can also create a little confidence boost, because as you create your elevator pitch, you’ll be demonstrating to yourself how interesting your own work and hobbies truly are.
Once you have your list written down, you can workshop how you want to describe each element. This is your chance to decide how you want to deliver the message of who you are. It’s not just about your work, it could be about your interests, hobbies, or the business you’re developing or goals you’re working on.
If there’s an element of what you do that you don’t feel really proud of, this is also an opportunity to examine whether it’s something you want to do, or to rework your own bias so you can talk about what you do in an unapologetic way.
A good example of this is stay-at-home Mums’. I know so many women who say they’re “just” a stay-at-home Mum and feel embarrassed to talk about what they do. I wish this wasn’t the case, because being a full-time parent is a tough gig and hard work. Our society is also starting to appreciate and value this kind of unseen work and we need to be proud of it and include it in our elevator pitch.
MAKE IT MALLEABLE
Now you’ve got your reliable few sentences or phrases, you can spend some time thinking about how you would tailor your elevator pitch depending on the different types of people you might be speaking to.
You would not deliver the same elevator pitch to a new work colleague as you would someone you meet at a boozy brunch. Each of these people could be valuable to you in your life, so it’s worth thinking about how you would change up the things you would say about yourself depending on the situation you’re in.
The truth is that you need a kind of elevator pitch for every situation, for work, for dates, for friendships and it needs to be malleable for the situation you’re in so you can get the information across and still seem authentic.
For example, a doctor at a conference would speak about their clinical interests and patient populations, but at a party could talk about their love of helping people understand their health. Both convey who they are and what they do, but in a way that is more relevant to their audience.
WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?
This will occur in the moment that you deliver your elevator pitch. It’s great practice to make your pitch relevant to the person in front of you by incorporating information you know about them.
You always want to make sure you ask plenty of questions of anyone you’re talking to and if you’ve done that, you can make your elevator pitch specific and interesting to them based on the information they’ve given you.
For example, if you’re a wedding planner and you’re speaking to someone who is single as the sky is blue or who has come off a bad breakup, then you may not bang on about all the loved up couples you’ve been working with and instead might focus on the things you both have in common.
MAKE IT CONVERSATIONAL
You want your elevator pitch to be conversational and not a lecture. Create opportunities for questions to be asked by fostering interest and intrigue and enabling a back and forth flow.
You also want to ensure you don’t have a particular script, because a script can come across as fake. This is why malleability is so important. Someone won’t want to work with you or be your friend if they feel like you’re going through the motions of delivering a speech you’ve given a hundred times before. They want to feel as though you’re there in the moment and engaged with them.
Are there creative ways your can describe your work and interests? Don’t think of it as just saying what you do, consider talking about what you love about your work, what drives you in your side hustle, the type of parent you are. Talk about the problems you solve instead of the work that you do. Describe what a day would look like for you or the type of people you meet.
If you’re an osteopath, you don’t just have to say you’re an osteopath and leave it at that. You could describe the ways you help people with their health, the types of patients you treat and where your passions lie, be it the conversations you have, the conditions you work with or the joy you get from seeing your patients achieve their goals.
THE TAKE HOME
There’s a million different ways to describe the life that you lead. The important thing is that you’re conveying the truth of who you are in a way that is authentic, relevant and snappy. It’s an opportunity to open a conversational door that could potentially lead you to a new opportunity, friendship or idea.
If you want a little something to get you going, I’ll leave you with a snippet of my elevator pitch:
What do I do? I entertain, educate and empower people. I do this through various methods; coaching, speaking, performing and producing events that are going to enlighten people in some way.