Most of us hate being asked what we do. I mean, how do you introduce yourself when there are a dozen different roles that you might assume on a regular basis and “what you do” is constantly changing?
Unlike your peers, you may not have one easy-to-summarize job title, or there may not be one company that you can say that you work for. Perhaps you’re in a position where you have a job that brings in the majority of your income, but that job in no way encapsulates everything you do or what you are working toward.
Almost all multipotentialites seem to struggle with this issue. It’s sort of the adult version of the Question, and for many of us, it is really is the bane of our existence…
Last week I asked you guys how you introduced yourselves in my email and on Facebook. I received so many smart, thoughtful answers. My suggestions in this post reflect the answers you sent in, but I would also recommend reading through the full list of comments if you want to see how other multipotentialites do it.
Context is everything: tailor your answer to who’s asking
Most multipotentialites have a few different answers that they pull out depending on who’s asking. If you are socializing with someone who works in an industry related to one of your pursuits or has interest in that area, it might make sense to lead with that. Of course, you might alternatively prefer to spice things up by sharing something you are doing in a totally unrelated field. That’s another way to go.
When it comes to sharing more, consider their intentions. Is this a professional setting? Is the person asking a potential new friend who seems open-minded? Are they genuinely interested, or are they just being polite?
Moreover, how do you feel? Are you in the mood to dive in and talk about your work in depth, or would you prefer to just drop a one-word answer and move on with your day?
Sometimes I actually don’t feel like having a big discussion about what a multipotentialite is, and so I say that I’m a consultant or a web designer. Dropping an easy-to-understand/boring title provides an out, and allows you both to move on to a new topic if you want.
The beautiful thing about being a multipotentialite, is that you have so many different identities, that you can literally choose the one that sounds the most conventional and requires the least amount of explanation if like. But it’s worth sitting down and writing up a list of possible one-liners that you can pull out in different contexts.
Throw out a feeler first and then elaborate
Sometimes you are in the mood to talk about your work and share the true extent of who you are, but you want to make sure that the person you’re speaking with is actually interested and isn’t going to criticize you.
In these situations, I’ll usually throw out a feeler. I’ll say something that could both stand alone or be a diving board into further conversation if the other person wants to take it there. For example, I’ll say something like “I run an online community,” and then if they reply with, “What kind of online community?” I’ll elaborate. Or I’ll say “I’m a writer,” and if they say “What kind of stuff do you write?”, then I’ll go into multipotentiality, the blog, etc.
If you work for yourself, your feeler can also be a title that you’ve given yourself. Lately, I’ve been testing out “I’m the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike.” That sounds pretty good, and “Creative Director” makes more sense to people than “Resident Multipotentialite,” or “Chief Troublemaker,” (though a quirky title isn’t always a bad idea. Again, it depends on who you’re speaking to).
The “I do many things” approach
Another way to answer the question “what do you do?” is to lead with your multipotentiality. To say something like “I do many things,” or “I’ve got a bunch of different projects on the go right now,” or even “I’m a multipotentialite!” (That’ll lead to further conversation, don’t worry…)
This is probably the most genuine way to answer, but often the most confusing for people, particularly those with a specialist mentality. It’s a good way to go if you pretty sure you’re in the presence of another multipotentialite, or you happen to be feeling confident and excited about all of your projects and just want to talk about them. It will lead to a discussion though, so you’d better be ready to talk about your various pursuits.
If you are one of those multipotentialites with a day job that doesn’t reflect everything you are working on, you can say something like, “Well, right now my day job is _____, but there are a lot of other things that I’m working on.”
The “I help _______ do _______” approach
When I use this approach, I say something like, “I help people who have a lot of different interests find ways of integrating all of their interests into their lives.” Other examples would be things like, “I help businesses tell their stories,” or “I help empower youth.” It doesn’t say anything about HOW you empower youth. Maybe you’re a dance teacher, maybe you’re a motivational speaker, maybe you work at a non-profit, maybe you do all three. They all fit within your statement, so it doesn’t matter if you use multiple formats.
Again, this approach will invariably lead to a discussion, so be sure that you’re in the mood to elaborate on all of the ways in which you help _____ do ______.
At the very least, it’s a good idea to answer this question for yourself. If you haven’t already, sit down and spend some time identifying who you help (your audience) and how you improve their lives (the value you provide). It’s a really useful thing to know.
Use it as a filter
It would be awesome if this question would just go away and instead people would get to know you by asking something like, “What are you excited about right now?”. But until that happens, we’re stuck answering this awful question.
So, take some time and brainstorm a few potential answers for yourself. With time, it’ll get easier explaining what you do. But even if it doesn’t get easier, then think of your introduction as a way to filter good people into your life and don’t worry about the rest. Let them be confused about what you do, and then go off and have fun pursuing all of your passions.
How do you introduce yourself when someone asks you what you do?