How to Explain What You Do for a Living, with Christina Canters

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Transcript

Mac Prichard:

Hi, this is Mac from Mac’s List. Before we start the show, I want to let you know about my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. I’ve been helping job seekers find meaningful, well-paying work since 2001 and now I put all my best advice into one easy-to-use guide. My book shows you how to make your resume stand out in a stack of applications, where you can find the hidden jobs that never get posted and what you need to do to ace your next job interview. Get the first chapter now for free. Visit macslist.org/anywhere.

This is Find Your Dream Job, a podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host, and publisher of Mac’s List. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag and Jessica Black. This week, we’re talking about how to explain what you do for a living.

What do you do for a living? It’s a question you probably get most days, especially when meeting new people. What you say matters a lot, says this week’s guest expert, Christina Canters. Your answer may lead to your next job or it can help you move up in your career. Christina and I talk later in the show about how you can give the best response possible.

Titles for the same job often vary by company and industry. You need to understand those differences so you don’t miss a job opening when looking online. Ben Forstag has found a website you can use to identify job titles across sectors. He shares it with us in a moment.

Is it okay to keep consulting on the side, once you’ve accepted a full-time job? And should you tell your new employer you’re doing it? That’s our question of the week. It comes from Abby Penley from Washington, D.C. Jessica Black shares her advice in a moment.

Before we talk about this week’s show topic, I want to thank Jenna Forstrom for her many contributions to Find Your Dream Job. Jenna recently left the Mac’s List team. I’ll miss her passion for service to others and her amazing energy and her terrific sense of humor. We all wish her well and I’m grateful for everything she accomplished here.

We’re now looking for a new team member, a Digital Marketing Strategist. See the job board on our website, macslist.org if you’d like to learn more and let us know if you have a recommendation for us. Until we fill the job, Jessica Black from the Mac’s List team will join us every week to answer your questions. Jessica welcome to the show.

Jessica Black:

Thanks, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

Yes, it’s a pleasure to have you here and in the Mac’s List studio and now let’s check in with you and Ben about this week’s topic. I’m curious, how do you two respond when you meet someone at an event and they say, “What do you do for a living?”

Jessica Black:

Well, I will say, now, since I’m here at Mac’s List, I say that “I work for Mac’s List” and sometimes people know what Mac’s List is all about and sometimes they don’t but I will say that “I work for an online community for job-seekers which has a job board as well as other resources including a blog and a podcast and an online course.”

Mac Prichard:

Good, that’s a good answer. Ben, what about you?

Ben Forstag:  

I usually like to say something that’s initially intentionally vague. Something like, “I help people find jobs they love.” Just ’cause that like spurs a follow-up question like, “Oh, what does that mean? What do you actually do?” And I use that as a segue to talk about my work here at Mac’s List. And then I break it up a little bit more, I say like “I help run the business, I help run the podcast, I help develop other products and so forth.”

Mac Prichard:

I like the interest that you kindle when you lead with that statement. Like Jessica, I tend to be functional. I don’t say I run a public relations company but I will say, when I’m talking about Prichard for example, because I run two businesses, “I run a public relations company that helps non-profits, foundations and purpose-driven brands and we offer communication services that help them help make the world a better place,” and that gives a sense of our mission and … but our services as well.

Jessica Black:

I will say that when … before I worked at Mac’s List, I would be a little bit more vague in terms of saying something along the lines of, “I manage operations for non-profits.” Something more general that can encompass many different things and then talk more specifically about the functions that I would take on based on the person that I was talking to.

Ben Forstag:  

You know this is an interesting topic because I’ve been in conversations where I asked people, “Oh, what do you do for a living?” and sometimes the responses are either so vague or the tone they have is just so negative like you don’t even want to continue the conversation. You just … “Okay, we’ll move on to something else.” I think the way you talk about what you do and also the tenor of how you talk about it is really important.

Mac Prichard:

Yes, I think Christina is going to make this point later in our conversation based on what I’ve read about her work; that one of the things you want to happen when you give an answer is find a way to keep the conversation going and respond in a way that both answers the question but intrigues the person, the listener, so they’ll want to learn more and once you start that process, that can lead to all sorts of doors opening and she’ll take us through how that’ll work.

Well, Ben, before we get Christina on the phone here, let’s turn to you because you’re out there every week searching the nooks and crannies of the Internet, so I know you’re always looking for websites, books, other tools people can use in their job search and career. And what have you uncovered for our listeners this week?

Ben Forstag: 

So this week I want to talk about a blog post I found called: “Why are job titles important to your career?” And this comes from the website, thebalance.com. I’ll be honest, when I started my professional career, job titles were not something I spent a whole lot of time thinking about or paid attention to and I actually remember the very first office job I ever had, they hired me … I knew what my responsibilities were but they hadn’t put a job title on the job description and so they came up to me and said like “Oh, what do you want your job title to be?” And I was like, “I don’t care, it doesn’t matter.” And I think that was a big mistake. I was pretty naïve back then. I think job titles do matter.

Mac Prichard:

They matter a lot, yes.

Ben Forstag:   

They matter a lot and employers use job titles to categorize positions in their organizations and often titles are part of the compensation management system so ‘manager’ makes less than ‘director,’ who makes less than ‘officer,’ and so forth. And when you’re looking to find a job, you can search using your current job title or the title of jobs that you’re interested in as keywords. Again, these are shortcuts for what level in the organization do you want to be at. So reviewing job titles is also a great way to discover what positions are available in the career fields that interest you.

I know again this is something I’ve had challenges with in the past, spending a long time in one sector where there’s a certain kind of language in the nonprofit sector for example, and trying to jump into a new employment sector, where the language is completely different, and you’re not even sure where to start. So this blog post is really interesting, not just for talking about the importance of job titles, but it actually has hundreds of the most common job titles across a wide array of employment sectors. They are all organized by primary and secondary categories too, so you can look up business as one of the primary categories and that’s broken up into 10 different subsets of different aspects of the business environment and each one of those has 100 or more common job titles in the field.

So this gives you a whole lexicon, a whole dictionary of terms that you can research around and there’re little descriptions about: “Here’s what ‘Account Manager 4’ actually does in an organization.” So, if you’re looking to jump into a new sector, I strongly recommend you check this resource out; this gives you a basis to start that search ’cause usually the very first thing you see in a job posting online is the title of the job, right? So you need to know what you’re looking for.

Mac Prichard:

So Ben, as you were poking around this website, did you find that many employers use very different terms to describe basically the same job?

Ben Forstag:  

You find a wide variety of terms but the more you look at it, the more you see they cluster around general types. The specific wording might change a little bit here and there but most organizations are following the manager-director-officer hierarchy and I think the other interesting thing here is, within all these different fields there are all these subsets of careers that exist within the finance community that I’ve never heard of but clearly, because there are so many job titles clustered there, there’s a ripe area for employment at this point. And so, if you’re interested in making that jump, you need to know the options that are out there and the lexicon, so this is a great resource. Again, it’s called Why are Job Titles So Important to Your Career? And it’s available at thebalance.com and we will have the link in the show notes.

Mac Prichard:

Well great, well thank you, Ben. I could see there’d be great value in knowing that because I think many sectors may use different expressions or different language to talk about some of the positions and, if you’re changing sectors, you need to know what the language is in that industry. Well great, if you have a suggestion for Ben, we’d love to hear from you. Please write him and we may share your idea on the show. Ben’s address is easy to remember, it’s ben@macslist.org.

Now let’s turn to you, our listeners. Jessica Black joins us to answer one of your questions. Jessica what is in the Mac’s List mailbag this week?

Jessica Black:

Great. Thanks, Mac. Today’s question comes from Abby Penley, who lives in Washington, D.C. Let’s listen to what she has to say…

Abby Penley:  

Hi this is Abby from Washington, D.C. and my question is: I’m currently looking for a job, however I have a few ongoing consulting gigs that I don’t want to give up even when I do land a full-time job. Is this something that I should tell prospective employers about or should I just not mention it?

Jessica Black:

Great question, Abby. I say absolutely tell your prospective employer that you are consulting on the side and you’d like to continue to do that. Number one, I’m all about open and honest communication. I think that that’s a great skillset and quality to bring into… especially a new relationship with a prospective employer and you’d want to know right off the bat if that’s something that they shy away from or maybe disapprove of, because that may mean that they aren’t a good fit for you in general. But also, it’s probably listed on your resume, if you’ve been doing this for quite a while or for some time, or if you’ve just listed it somewhere, and the employer may ask you about that. And so, bringing it up first-hand would be beneficial.

Mac Prichard:

I think that’s great advice, Jessica, and the only thing I would add is, I think it’s a question of timing because I think the best time to talk about the consulting, your interest in continuing a consulting gig is when there’s an offer on the table because that’s when you as a candidate are most attractive to an employer and … Earlier in the process employers are looking for ways to reduce the candidate pool and you don’t want to offer something that may not be an issue later in the process once you become the finalist. But I agree with you, transparency is the way to go.

Jessica Black:

And in response to that, Mac, a way that, Abby, you could address that if it does get brought up by the employer earlier in the conversation than you anticipate or than you planned, a good way could be addressing that it won’t affect your performance within this new job and the new full-time work hours – that you’ll make sure that it stays outside of work hours and that it wouldn’t affect anything.

Ben Forstag:  

And I think one of the ways you do that is by outlining exactly what you’re talking about when you say you’ve got a consulting gig, ’cause if you just leave it open-ended the employer might think, I don’t know what that means, I mean they’re working 20 extra hours when they’re not here? But you could say something like, “This is the kind of thing I do on Saturday afternoons to make a little extra money and it’s a passion project for me, it’s not going to be something I do in the office and it’s … certainly this job comes first in terms of if there was a time crunch.” So you just need to be open and explicit, and honest.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

Well great. Excellent advice, Jessica, thank you. If you’ve got a question for Jessica, please send her an email. Her address is jessica@macslist.org. Or even better, call our listener line. That number is area code, 716 JOB TALK. That’s 716-562-8255. If we use your question on the show, we’ll send you a copy of Land Your Dream Job Anywhere.

We’ll be back in a moment, and when we return I’ll talk with this week’s special guest, Christina Canters, about how to explain what you do for a living.

Most people struggle with job hunting. The reason is simple. Most of us learn the nuts and bolts of looking for work by trial and error. That’s why I produce this podcast, to help you master the skills you need to find a great job. It’s also why I wrote my new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere. For 15 years of Mac’s List, I’ve helped people in Portland, Oregon find meaningful, well-paying and rewarding jobs that they love. Now, I put all of my job-hunting secrets in one book that can help you, no matter where you live. You’ll learn how to get clear about your career goals, find hidden jobs that never get posted and ace your next job interview. For more information and to download the first chapter for free visit macslist.org/anywhere.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Christina Canters. Christina Canters is a communication skills speaker, coach and she’s the host of the podcast, Stand Out, Get Noticed. She helps ambitious professionals become more effective and confident when they speak, present and pitch. An engaging speaker, Christina has wowed audiences at organizations and conferences around the world with her passion, humor and the occasional ukulele song. She joins us today from Melbourne, Australia. Thanks for coming on the show, Christina.

Christina Canters:

Thanks so much, Mac, I’m excited.

Mac Prichard:

Yes, it’s a pleasure to have you, and one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is to talk about this week’s topic, how to explain what you do for a living. You wrote a blog post on this but it had I think a more effective title. Do you want to share that with our listeners?

Christina Canters: 

Yes, I called it: “How to suck less at explaining what you do.”

Mac Prichard:

And I think that is something that our listeners would have a lot of interest in. Now, when people … how do people typically respond when they’re asked the question, “what do you do for a living?” And what happens?

Christina Canters:   

Well most people start conversations with this question because that’s sort of the default question that they know to ask, and I prefer not to start conversations with that question but a lot of people do, so it pays to be able to answer that question well. And a lot of people don’t actually give much consideration to how they answer that question and they usually answer with their job title, so they’ll say, “Oh, I’m a dentist” or “I’m a project manager” or “I’m a graphic designer” and then they stop. And then they wait, expectantly, for the other person to follow up with some amazing, intelligent question and for the conversation to flow.

But in reality, it doesn’t work that way because when you give just your title, it doesn’t give the other person something to grab onto, to actually continue the conversation. And I think the first thing for listeners to realize, is that when someone asks you, “What do you do?” or “What do you do for a living?” a lot of the times they don’t actually care or really want to know. It’s more so that that’s the only way they know how to start a conversation, so think about it as, your answer should help to continue with that conversation, rather than just give your job title. Does that answer the question?

Mac Prichard:

It does, and so I can imagine people thinking, “Okay, that sounds like terrific advice; what are strategies I could use to give an answer that’s going to engage people and keep the conversation going and avoid those awkward silences or blank stares?”

Christina Canters:  

Oh yes, those awkward silences. I’ll tell you this. If you answer the question, “What do you do?” with your title and all you get is a stare or them going, “Oh, okay,” then you haven’t made an impact. Or even worse, if they say, “Oh that’s interesting” … it’s not interesting. They just don’t know what to say. So, I’m afraid you’re going to have to give them something more, okay. Think about it as you’re helping them to carry on the conversation.

So what you can do to add on to your job title, is you can do a few things. You could add on a sentence about who you help and how you help them. So for example, if you’re a graphic designer you could say, “I’m a graphic designer; I help small business owners to communicate the story of their brands much more effectively,” and then they’ll go, “Oh, okay.” And what you’re doing here is you’re actually feeding them bits of information that they can grab onto. So if they are… they could potentially be a small business owner and they could go, “Oh, hey, I can really use your help with that.” Or they might know someone who is a small business owner, who could use your help, right? You could also add on a fact, for example, “I’m a physiotherapist – actually, did you know that most back injuries occur during Christmas time when people are trying to put up their Christmas tree?” That’s not an actual fact, I just made that up but … you can see what I mean…

Mac Prichard:

Sounds plausible.

Christina Canters:

Of course. But then the other person is going to go, “No way. Hey, you know, I had an uncle that hurt himself … ” or whatever. And that’s a way that you can actually help the other person to continue on that conversation. So those are some things that you can do.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so add a sentence that explains the benefit or the service you offer or who you might serve, or throw a fun fact in there, but whatever the approach, it’s about keeping the conversation going and getting a reaction from your listener.

Christina Canters:

Yes. Because you might mention… let’s say you’re explaining who you’re serving and how you helped them, the more you share in that one sentence the more they have to grab onto, to continue on a conversation so you might share who you are helping, they could potentially grab onto that and go, “Oh I know someone who is that person.” You share what you actually do to help them, or even the place where you’re working or whatever it is, which might resonate with them and that’s going to allow them to continue the conversation with you.

Mac Prichard:

Now Christina, many of our listeners are either actively looking for a job or maybe thinking about making a move to a new position. Should they take a different approach? Should job seekers answer this question differently, especially if they’re unemployed?

Christina Canters:     

Well, it depends on what you want, so if you are unemployed and if you are looking for a job, by all means use this as an opportunity to share what you’re looking for, because you never know, the person you’re speaking to might be able to help you with that job search or they might know someone who can help you with that job search, so there is a bit of a mindset shift that needs to happen here. I know a lot of people who might be unemployed or are not happy in their work… you may not want to talk about that, you may not want to say, “Oh, I’m unemployed” ’cause it might sound bad to you, or you don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m hating my job.” You just don’t want to talk about your job.

Instead, if you shift your mindset to think, “this is a great opportunity to share what I want and this person might be able to help me,” that’s going to put a positive spin on it and actually help you to do this, and you’re more likely to get out there and be open to talking to people.

So what you can do, if someone asked you, “Oh, so what do you do?” you could say, “Oh, I’m actually looking for new job opportunities at the moment. I’d like to focus on helping … XYZ with XYZ.” So again, like I shared earlier, you can share who you would like to help and how you would like to help them and share your area of expertise.

And one thing that I’ve noticed a lot of people do when they’re looking for jobs is that they tend to phrase their, I suppose their elevator pitch, on what a company can help them do. So they’ll say, “Oh I’m looking for a company that can … do this for me, “A company that can provide me with … ” this sort of role or this sort of opportunity, … “where I can grow and learn … ” blah-blah-blah. I would suggest that you actually flip it and share what sort of company you would like to help and what you can do for them, ’cause let’s say that you’re speaking to someone who could potentially help you, they’re going to be thinking, “what’s in it for me?”

So if you can share with … If you’re going to say to them, “Oh hi, this is my area of expertise and I’m looking … I would love to work for a small company that specializes in this sort of work because I could really contribute … XYZ,” they’re going to be thinking, “Okay, maybe I could use their help or maybe I know someone who could use their help,” instead of making it all about you and saying, “I want this and I’m looking for a company that does this and this and this for me.” So it’s a different way of phrasing it. But if you’re worried about saying … You don’t have to say that’s you’re unemployed. You can say, “Oh, I’m doing this at the moment but I’m looking for new opportunities in this particular area.”

Mac Prichard:

Now Christina, I’ve seen you write about this about the importance of confidence and what a big part it plays when you’re talking to others about the work you do. Why do people need to be confident when they explain what they do for a living?

Christina Canters:   

Oh, it’s so important. If you don’t come across as being confident in yourself then how can you expect other people to be confident in you? So if you’re looking for a job, and you’re standing there and your shoulders are hunched over and you’re looking at the floor and you’re like, “Yeah well I’m kind of good at designing, I’m sort of looking for a role in a company that might want to take me on.” That person will be standing there and going, “Hmm … well this person doesn’t sound very confident in themselves. Can I trust them to do a good job? Are they someone that I want to recommend?” So it’s absolutely key to be able to get people on board with you and your ideas and want to recommend you to someone who could potentially help you. So confidence is very, very important.

Mac Prichard:

What are some of your best tips for projecting confidence, especially without risking sounding arrogant?

Christina Canters: 

That’s a great question. I get this a lot. People write to me all the time saying, ” I’m afraid of sounding arrogant.” Firstly, if you’re one of those people who is afraid of sounding arrogant, the fact that you are aware of that means that you most likely would not sound arrogant. It’s the people who are completely oblivious and are like, “Oh, I’m not arrogant.” They’re the ones that come across as arrogant, so don’t worry. Don’t worry about that.

One thing you can do is to really get yourself into a positive physical state before you even get to that event. Before you even arrive at that event or you’re talking to someone. I do the same thing before an important presentation. I’ll dance around the room with a happy song. I put my shoulders back, my head up and I’ll just get physically really pumped up and then by the time I get on stage, I’m already in this really positive physical state. And Tony Robbins talks about this all the time. If you want to change your emotional state and have success in your life, the first thing you have to do is change your physical state.

You know, power-posing, and all that stuff. You can … If you haven’t heard of power-posing, research it, there’s heaps … there’s a lot of information out there on it. The second thing you can do is to watch your language. Now, a lot of people, I find when you ask them what they do or they are explaining what they do, they’ll say, “I’m just a …[insert job title].” I’ve heard people say, “Oh, I’m just a personal assistant” or “I’m just a hairdresser” or “I’m just an admin assistant.” And a lot of these people I speak to actually really enjoy their jobs, yet they talk themselves down as if this particular role is not worthy or it’s not good enough.

So if you find yourself saying, “Oh, I’m just a student” or “I’m just- … ” whatever it is, “I’m just a … ” or “I’m only … I’ve only been working for a couple of years; I’m just a graduate.” I want you to delete that word from your vocabulary. Now all you have to do is pause when you feel that word coming up. So instead of saying, “Oh, I’m just a … ” just go, “I’m a … “, right? It doesn’t make it … It makes a huge difference to how you come across when you say, “I’m a graduate.” “I’m an executive assistant.” “I’m a hairdresser and I love it.”

There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I’m proud of my job, I love my job and this is what I am.” If you’re looking to move on, if you’re not happy in your position, you can say, “Well right now, I’m a … blah-blah-blah, … but I’m hoping to transition to a new position. In fact I’m looking for… ” and that’s where you can go into your pitch, so to speak, about what you’re looking for and who you want to be helping. So really watch your language because it does have an impact on your inner confidence, as well as the confidence that you project.

Mac Prichard:

So ban the word ‘just’ and substitute a pause instead and speak with excitement and confidence about what it is you’re doing…

Christina Canters:    

Absolutely. If you want people to be interested in what you’re saying, you’ve got to be interested in what you’re saying.

Mac Prichard:

Agreed. Now, Christina I know we have listeners out there who have highly technical jobs and do you have a recommended formula for them for describing that position to others?

Christina Canters: 

Oh, so eliminating jargon. I love this. I have a friend who … I remember I once asked him, “So what do you do?” and he said, “I work at a bank” and I was like, “that doesn’t help me; what do you do at the bank?” And he goes, “Oh, I’m a quantitative analyst” and I’m like, “I still have no idea what that means.” It was just so confusing. And I said, “How would you explain this to a 10-year-old?” And he thought for a moment and he said, “Well you know how when you go to the bank to get a loan, like a home loan?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well when you do that, all your data goes into a system.” He said, “I work on the mathematical algorithm behind that system that determines whether you get the loan or not.” And I was like, “Oh okay, I get it now.”

And what I loved about that explanation was that he put it into terms that I could understand. I’m not a quantitative analytical person so … and I do not know bank jargon. I don’t know any of that jargon and I loved how he, in that way that he explained it. So from this, I came up with a formula, you could call it, for explaining technical jobs and to do this, first of all you ask a question but you make it related to an everyday thing that everyone knows. So you might say, “Do you know when … ‘this’ happens?” So you would fill in ‘this’ with whatever it is. “So you know when you see … XYZ?” And then you wait for them to nod.

So like my friend did, he said, “So you know when you go to a bank to get a home loan?” I say, “Yes, yes I do.” You have to wait for that “Yes.” If someone says “Mm … no” and you got to simplify it again then you’re going to go, “Okay, so you know when you want to buy a house and you need money?” and then they’ll say, “Yes.” Then you go, “Well you need a loan for that … ” so, you get what I mean.

Mac Prichard:

Yes, another “Yes.”

Christina Canters:  

So you have to keep simplifying it until you get a nod and an agreement, because if you don’t and you continue on, you’ve lost them already. So, you get a nod, then you say, “Well I do the … XYZ … behind the … XYZ …, which does … XYZ,” so you’re filling in all these blanks. You have to ask a question first that relates to a real world experience or example that anyone could understand. When you get the nod and the “Yes,” then you say, “Well, I do the … ” whatever and then you go on to explain it. You could potentially ask another question as well, depending on how complex your job is. Does that make sense?

Mac Prichard:

Absolutely. And what I love about that is you’re listening and you’re engaging the other person and you’re getting feedback and so you’re not talking at them, it’s a conversation. And your answer is going to lead somewhere.

Christina Canters: 

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Christina, this has been very enjoyable chatting with you. Now tell us, what is next for you? What’s coming up next for Christina Canters?

Christina Canters:

I do have a few conferences that I’m speaking at coming up, which is something I’m really excited about. I’ve got a big real estate conference; I’ll be speaking to 400 real estate agents here in Melbourne on how to build their own confidence and communicate better with clients. I’ll be emceeing a large “Women in Tech” conference as well in March coming up so I’m excited about that and I’m coming over to the states in August for Podcast Movement, which I can’t wait for.

Mac Prichard:

Yes, in fact my cohost Ben Forstag and I will be there, so I hope we have a chance to connect in person.

Christina Canters:  

All righty. I look forward to it.

Mac Prichard:

Good. I do too. And for our listeners who want to learn more, I know they can visit your website which is The C Method, that’s C for Christina, thecmethod.com, and we’ll include links to your website and other resources that you mentioned in our show notes. Christina, thanks for coming on the show today.

Christina Canters: 

Excellent. Thank you so much, Mac.

Mac Prichard:

You’re welcome. Take care.

All right. We’re back in the Mac’s List studio with Jessica and Ben. Now, what are your reactions to my conversation with Christina? I actually … that was a lot of fun for me actually.

Jessica Black:

It was a lot of fun. She has great energy and that was one of the things that I took from her conversation with you; was rule number one, her emphasis on making your statements relatable and just starting a conversation and making it enjoyable for the other person as well to just continue a conversation but then also to project confidence. And also, the energy and excitement that you project comes back to you and just keeps the conversation going really easily and makes it more fun for everyone, and I think that those are both great points – and to watch saying ‘just’ and ‘only’ and diminutive words.

Mac Prichard:

Yes, I loved her point about ‘just.’ I think … I certainly do this and I see it in others. When we add those hedging words… sometimes I think it’s inspired by well-intentioned modesty, but we don’t have to do that and we can take pride in what we do and our accomplishments.

Jessica Black:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

Yes. Ben, what are your thoughts?

Ben Forstag:  

I really liked her point about describing highly technical positions and I don’t think I have a very technical job but I certainly know that this technique will come in handy when I try to explain to my mother for the hundredth time what I do for a living.

Mac Prichard:

Yes to me that’s the acid test when you’re at a family gathering. Does your aunt or uncle really understand what you do?

Jessica Black:

What do you tell your mother now when she asks you what you do?

Ben Forstag:

Usually I just tell her, “I help run a Portland-based job board and an online community for people looking for work,” and she nods and smiles and then we go on and talk about the weather.

Mac Prichard:

So what do you think you might do differently, Ben? The next time you and your mom are talking about how you’re spending your day?

Ben Forstag:

“So you know how you can go online and look for jobs?”

Jessica Black:

Exactly.

Ben Forstag: 

“I help run a website that does that.”

Jessica Black:

“I facilitate that job posting.”

Mac Prichard:

Oh, good. Well it’s a good formula and I think it would be useful to our listeners, certainly, as well as at the next Forstag family gathering. Well, terrific. Thank you both and thank you, Christina, for joining us this week and thank you, our listeners, for downloading this week’s episode of Find Your Dream Job. If you like what you hear, please sign up for our free weekly newsletter. In every issue, we give the key point of that week’s show.

We also include links to all the resources mentioned and you get a transcript of the full episode. If you subscribe to the newsletter now, we’ll send you our jobseeker checklist. In one easy-to-use file, we’ll show you all the steps you need to take to find a great job. Get your free newsletter and checklist today. Go to macslist.org/podcast and join us next Wednesday when our special guest will be Nancy Collamer. She will explain how to go about choosing a second-act career.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

“What do you do for a living?” It’s a question you probably get often, especially when meeting new people. The question is so common, most people don’t give it much thought. But what you say matters a lot. How you explain what you do can lead to your next job or help you move up in your career.

This week’s guest, Christina Canters, urges people to do more than just share their job title. Instead, explain what you do in a way that can kickstart a deeper, more meaningful conversation.

Christina offers these tips for explaining what you do:

  1. When speaking with people outside your field, remove jargon and explain your job in language and metaphors that are easily understandable.
  2. Explain who you help in your job–and how you might be able to help the person you’re speaking with.
  3. Add a fun fact about your work just after your title.

If you’re currently unemployed and looking for work, use the “what do you do” question as an opportunity. Put a positive spin on your situation by saying “I’m looking for new opportunities at the moment.” or “I’m looking to help an organization do…”

Christina also emphasizes the importance of confidence and enthusiasm when explaining your job.  If you don’t come across as confident in yourself, why would anyone else be confident in you?

This Week’s Guest

Christina Canters is a communication skills speaker, coach and host of the podcast, Stand Out, Get Noticed. Her website, The CMethod, helps ambitious professionals become more effective and confident when they speak, present and pitch. An engaging speaker, Christina has wowed audiences at organizations and conferences around the world with her passion, humor, and the occasional ukulele song.

Resources from this Episode