And How to Answer it Like a Pro
Explaining my profession to strangers used to be easy. When they asked, “What do you do?”, I would reply with, “I am an English teacher.” And, if I wanted to add more pride to my answer, I’d say, “I teach English at a university level.” Back in Mexico, my homeland, I used to teach English in a classroom setting. Making lesson plans and grading exams were part of my everyday duties.
However, when I moved to the Netherlands, answering this question became a hassle. It’s now been two years since I’ve been in front of a classroom. During my first year of living in this country, I attended many events, and strangers would often ask the uncomfortable question of “what do you do?” to which I would reply stuttering, “I-I used to be a-an English teacher.” Some of my answers also included an explanation of why I wasn’t working in my field of study anymore, “finding a job as an English teacher in this country is difficult you know….” I would come up with all sorts of answers ranging from, “I am taking a sabbatical.” to “I am a dog walker, house-cleaner, and ironing master” This last one is true, by the way. For a year or so, I devoted my time to working in different sorts of day jobs. At least then I had an answer for the curious people out there.
After some time, I started my own online clothing business. I do not make millions with it, but I have a very decent income that allows me to pay for my expenses. Besides, I love working on my business, and people love the brand. I decided to test out my brand-new job title by attending different events. People at parties would approach me and ask, “so tell me, what do you do?”, and I would answer with, “I run an online clothing business”. This time it came out naturally, and I felt more confident in my answer than ever before.
After a while, I developed a new passion for writing. This passion showed up unannounced, and I welcomed it with open arms. During my second year of living in the Netherlands, I decided to start a lifestyle blog based on my own experiences. My audience started to grow, and I even got published on some major websites. I couldn’t be happier; writing had filled the void in my career path. Nowadays, when people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I’m an entrepreneur and a writer, because even if my business is still small, and even if my writing is still in process, it’s who I am.
So what if you feel like your answer isn’t enough?
There will never be a right answer to this question, because you are who you decide to be. If you are a waiter, say it out loud. Be proud of how good you are at your job. If you are a business owner, be proud of it. If you’re like me, and you made a shift in your career, embrace it. Be fearless and tell your friends, family, and everybody around. Give yourself permission to be someone new.
Answer with confidence. I’ve learned that the key to answering the “what do you do?” question like a master is to answer with confidence. Say, “I am an (insert profession, job, or hobby here)” with pride. No one is going to believe you are ‘x’ thing if you don’t believe it yourself. If you consider yourself to be a great teacher, and you know you are providing great value, others will see it too. Never belittle the work that you do.
Understand the transition jobs. You’ll probably be many things in life: a waiter, a student, an assistant, a teacher, you name it. And at one point or another, you will feel like your job is not as valuable as others. But when you understand that the job you perform is sometimes part of a transition in your life, you will start responding differently.
Stop caring about what others will think. Your friends won’t stop talking to you just because you’ve changed your career or because you’re figuring things out. At least your real friends will understand and support you through rough times. What others think about you is secondary. You know very well what your victories and your strengths are, so why bother worrying so much about your answer. Who knows, you might be a house cleaner now, but a successful (insert dream job) in a couple of years. 🙂
So, what about you? Have you ever struggled with telling people about your job? Share your own experiences in the comment section below!