Don't you just love small talk?! No. Nobody loves answering the little questions that inevitably come when meeting a new acquaintance, but let's talk about how to make the most of that opportunity to engage with someone new and how to make them feel like you're interested in them too! I'm going to share how I answer when someone asks "what do you do?" (and how I want to START answering) along with some helpful tips for you to think about when you answer that question, especially if you are self-employed!
First, let's look at how you see yourself- this is the most important part of successful small talk (and building relationships with people!). The question "what do you do?" was a challenging one for me at one point in my life and even one that I tried to avoid because I wasn't happy with my job (which is a whole other story!). I dreaded being asked about my occupation and tried to respond quickly and then move the conversation along and focus the attention on someone else. I didn't think what I was doing was valuable or reflected my talent or who I was as a person; of course, I've since learned that what you do isn't who you ARE, but at the time, I was very self-conscious! You need to know that most employed people are still working on their next achievement, their next promotion, or even have a side business that they would love to grow into their full-time gig, so we are all in the same boat. It's important to accept where you are currently, enjoy the role you're in and try to learn everything you can before rushing on to the next stage. Every work stage I've been through has taught me a lot about my personality, how I work, who I like to work with, and how I can better relate to others. I wouldn't be successful today if I hadn't struggled through some of my previous jobs!
As I moved around in the work force and started working in event marketing, I was happy to tell people what I did because it was something that I enjoyed doing. However, since I started my own business and became a full-time self-employed event planner and blogger almost a year ago, a new challenge presented itself: I had to figure out how to accurately explain my occupation to people in an understandable way (and figure out what my job title even meant for me!). Usually when someone asks me "what do you do?" I respond with "I'm an event planner and a blogger" and sometimes that satisfies them, but usually there are follow-up clarification questions like "who do you plan events for? or "what do you blog about?" How can I make that job title easier to understand?
I need to get more specific and descriptive with the words that I use to explain my job to people, without just referring them to my website ;) In your own life, think about what words you use to describe your job. Do people often look confused or ask you way too many follow-up questions because they don't understand what you do? Are you a photographer? Or do you own your own wedding photography business? Sometimes it's easier for me to help other people than to help myself, so I'm writing this post to help you but also to help me organize my thoughts: I should include things like "I own my own event planning company" and "I write a lifestyle blog about events and fashion."
Some of what I do changes depending on what kind of events I am currently working on or what upcoming projects I have in the queue. I work on a mix of client events (a non-profit dinner and silent auction, for example), my own social events hosted by "The Skinny Arm" (Beats & Bubbly, my New Year's Eve party), influencer events (Dallas Blogger Brunch and meet-ups), along with social media management for one client and my own social media channels, mostly Instagram and Facebook. Most of my income comes from event planning, but I also work with brands to produce sponsored posts (Old Navy and Coach, for example), as well as do a tiny bit of small business consulting (for events and brand management). Fashion blogging and linking my latest purchases for you results in a small commission made if you shop through my links (thank you!), and that is a fun way for me to motivate myself to get dressed in the morning now that I work from home! Whether you have one specific role or wear multiple hats throughout the workday, how can you be more specific about your job?
The more you talk about what you do (and people understand it!) the more you will be thought of as a professional in your industry. For example, are you a realtor? Do ALL of your friends know that? Are you consistently posting about real estate on social media? The more people associate you with real estate, the more likely friends and acquaintances are to think of you when they need a realtor! Most people know that I do something with events, but they don't quite know what. I need to make it more clear that I don't plan weddings, I do plan social events, and I am available for hire to help your business or non-profit organization with an upcoming event; I often have people reach out to me asking which restaurant they should host a private event at or what venues they should look at for their wedding. While I am happy to try to help, those areas are not my specialty, so I'm not the best person to ask. That shows me that I need to do a better job explaining my specific areas of specialization when I'm talking with people.
The next time someone asks "what do you do?," I'm going to try my hardest to respond with something like "I own a social and non-profit event planning business and I write a lifestyle blog at theskinnyarm.com." or "I'm self-employed and I plan large scale social events and fundraisers, and I'm a blogger- you should follow me on Instagram!" Both of those examples are more clear and could even result in a new client or follower!
Don't forget, people like to talk about themselves, so be sure to ask what THEY do too! Do you have any tips about how you explain your occupation to people? I would love to hear them; email me or comment below!