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What do you do?

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Imagine a scenario where you are meeting for someone for the first time. If you live in America, there is a good chance that the conversational exchange will go something like this:

An opening volley of small talk …

A bit more small talk …

Something about the weather …

And then someone will inevitably say — wait for it …

“So, what do you do?”

I consider “What do you do?” to be one of the world’s worst networking questions. I wrote a guest blog post about it at Direct Talk, the blog of Donna Berkelhammer at The Legal Direction. Here are a few of the highlights.

On the one hand, this little four-word question is a valiant attempt at keeping the conversation going, perhaps even taking it to a new place. On the other hand, “What do you do?” always falls flat. It’s a rather impersonal query offering little that is stimulating. It opens no doors in your quest to be helpful. “So, you are a doctor (or a project manager, or a VP, or whatever). That sounds nice.”

The problem is that “What are you working?” is a closed question. It doesn’t go anywhere.

Instead of asking, “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?”, ask the most powerful networking question in the world: “What are you working on?” This opens the door to the heart of what’s important to a person. 

Go read the entire article. It’s less than 500 words and loaded with a couple of key insights on what to say and why when you are conversing with someone..

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