There was a point in my business where, without fail, every single client I’d served had asked me to do one common thing: update their bio. It didn’t matter if they needed an About Me page on their website, a LinkedIn update, or an elevator pitch, they wanted me to help them refine how they communicated to other people their skills, their experience, and their goals.
I 100% feel the pain behind this request. “What do you do?” people used to ask me, and I’d immediately start pulling random words out of the air.
Why did it seem like I was responding to their question with questions?
The thing is, we all know exactly what we do on a day-to-day basis, but transferring that to other people in a way that allows them to understand how we do it, why we do it, and who we really are--that’s tough. Unless you have a job title that you can also buy in the form of a Halloween costume (police officer, fire fighter, doctor, astronaut, movie star), it’s likely that you’ve struggled to explain to even your closest friends and family members what you do for 40+ hours per week.
It’s important to show up to both face-to-face and online networking spaces with a solid description of our professional skill sets. Knowing how to package and showcase what we bring to the table is how we attract the opportunities we’re after.
I’ve created a list of a few considerations to make next time you’re reworking your LinkedIn bio or practicing your elevator pitch in the car on the way to a networking event. (I’ve also created a step-by-step fill-in-the-blank worksheet that I give to my clients to help them write their own bios, which is available here.)
Every one of these considerations provides a solid place to start the conversation when someone asks you, “What do you do?”
#1. Know who you serve (or who you want to serve)
Do you specialize in marketing for tech start-ups? Have you spent a lot of time in the food and beverage industry? Do you work in elementary education? Do you target small, service-based businesses? Or female entrepreneurs?
If you’re like me and you’ve worked in a lot of different capacities, it may be hard to generalize this one at first. But the more specific you can be about who you work with (or who you’ve delivered great results to), the clearer you can be in communicating what you do. See how easy it is to start the conversation this way?
Q: So, what do you do?
A: I work with women who own small businesses…
#2. Know what problems you solve
When I drive down the freeway from my house to downtown Dallas, I see a series of billboards that tell me which developer to call if I want to sell my house for cash, which dentist to visit if I want to get veneers, and which lawyer to call to get out of a DUI. (It would be nice if I never need to call any of those numbers.) All of these are answering to specific problems I might have, and that’s effective because if I run into that problem, those companies are top of mind.
What problem do you solve for people or organizations? Here are a few examples:
You’re an administrator who can help first year teachers how to manage a classroom
You’re a marketing director who creates work-flow systems within your department that save everyone time
You’re an OBGYN who helps women navigate high risk pregnancies
You’re a consultant who helps scale nonprofits in their first year of operations
This is great for finding new opportunities. If you lead with the problems you solve for people, anyone who’s experiencing that specific problem is going to need you on their team.
#3. What results can people walk away with after working with you?
Right now, a lot of people are selling inspiration, motivation, mind-set shifts, growth, and confidence. I love all of these things, but they can’t be what we lead with when someone asks us, “What do you do?”
I know this first hand. When I was first getting started in my business, I knew I wanted to work with women. To make my work feel bold and important, I wanted to lead with empowerment.
I still love the word, but not a single person has ever hired me to empower them. That word is ambiguous and hard to measure, and a business owner isn’t banging her head against her keyboard because she’s just not empowered enough. Here’s what my clients have hired me for:
To write the copy on their website
To help them write and deliver a great presentation
To create a strategy for their podcast launch
If they refer me, my clients won’t say to their friends, “You have to hire Liz. She empowered me.” Instead, they’ll say, “You have to hire Liz. She helped me launch my podcast.”
What specific outcomes do you offer in your work? They can be metrics you’ve brought companies, processes you walk people through from start to finish, technologies you’ve mastered, or products you create. What does your team, your client, your boss, or your company walk away with as a result from working with you?
People will love you because you do make them feel inspired, empowered, and motivated--that’s the truth! But, they’ll hire you because you can give them a tangible outcome that fills their need.
#4. How can someone follow up?
It might seem obvious, but we often neglect to give people an easy way to contact us. And unless it’s a long interview or your full autobiography we’re talking about, there’s probably a lot more you could share.
Make sure not to walk away from a face-to-face or online conversation without providing an invitation to keep the conversation going. My email signature and all of my social media accounts broadcast my website. When I didn’t have a website, I’d send people to my Linkedin profile. If I’m at a networking event without a business card (pretty much always), I get a person’s email on the spot and email them as soon as I get home.
Now when people ask me what I do, I don’t just sling the phrase Integrated Marketing Communications at them while their eyes glaze over and sweat rolls down my back. Here’s how those four steps can come together really easily.
“So, what do you do?”
“I work with professional women who are trying to grow their businesses or grow in their careers. I help them get their ideas out in front of the right audiences through public speaking, writing website content, launching podcasts, creating workshops, or other strategic communications. I have a website, actually, it’s right here on my card. Can I email you to follow up?”
(Triumphant theme music plays. End scene.)