(Read time: 1 1/2 minutes, plus a lunchtime activity)
Congratulations you’re invited!
(This invitation arrives in your Inbox)
What’s your first thought?
Women: ‘What am I going to wear?’
Men: ‘Is there going to be food?’
Are you prepared for this?
Getting out there in the world and sharing what you do is what networking is all about. Businesses, causes and careers are all built through networking. If we don’t network, we can’t grow.
Answering, ‘So, what do you do?’ is hard. Not because we don’t KNOW what we do, but because we are so busy DOING it that the larger purpose can get lost in the daily details.
Rarely do we afford ourselves the luxury of stepping back and putting into words HOW what we do benefits others. After all, if we can’t explain why partnering, supporting our cause or hiring us is beneficial, we have given our audience no reason to continue the conversation.
There is also another benefit. Being able to talk about how you/your work adds value is gratifying. It adds purpose to the tasks you do every day.
Here are some guidelines for coming up with an answer you can be proud of; an answer that leads to follow up conversations.
Do’s, Don’ts and Mad Libs
1) Plan on a short answer.
Our favorite topic of conversation is always ourselves. Given the smallest opening, we will go on and on. Limiting the answer to 1-3 sentences forces you to make decisions about what’s most important to communicate.
2) Lead with value, end with an ‘ask’.
Your audience isn’t really interested until they understand how what you do benefits them. When you lead with value for your audience, you are more likely to get the follow up meeting.
3) Write out your answer using bullet points.
The goal is to have an answer that is conversational, not one that sounds scripted. Bullet points offer flexibility if you want to make adjustments based upon the interests or responsibilities of your audience. Think about adding a story that illustrates how others have benefitted.
4) Use Action words.
Verbs make your answer come alive. Words like help, make, design, develop, improve, provide, and increase describe what is possible. Using action words helps your audience understand what they can expect from a partnership.
5) Aim for ‘Tell Me More’.
In 1-3 sentences you won’t be able to tell your whole story. The goal is to interest your audience enough to start a more detailed conversation where you can ask questions, get more information and plan the next meeting.
1) Lead with your job title – (Unless you are a high-level decision maker setting the direction of the organization). If your audience can’t relate (i.e. an accountant talking to a software developer) the conversation has already ended. Better to talk about what you do within the larger context of the value the organization delivers.
2) Recite a laundry list of activities.
Lists are overwhelming and your audience won’t remember anyway. Focus on the benefit of your activities in the initial answer. Details can follow in later conversations.
3) Use jargon or acronyms.
If your audience isn’t involved in your industry they won’t understand what you are saying and will quickly become disinterested. Use easy to remember words.
Remember, simple language is easier to repeat.
4) Cram everything you have ever done in your career into your answer.
When temptation strikes to lengthen your answer beyond a few sentences, remember that your goal is to have your audience ASK for more.
Put your daily ‘To Do’ list aside.
Spend a few minutes thinking about
WHY you do what you do.
Use the ideas and prompts to help come up with an answer people will remember.
Answer these prompts with bullet points
Who I Am_______________________________
What I Do_______________________________
Why it Matters____________________________
‘I am part of the team at____________. We (action word) (target audience)(why it’s valuable)’
Example:’I am part of the team at Fathom. We work with leaders to design futures worth fighting for’
(Fathom is a real company doing great work. Check them out here: FATHOM)
‘I work with ____________. We help (action word and value) for (target audience) by (activities that create value)’
(if your audience is a funder or potential donor)
I work with (name). We help grow the eligible employee pool for companies by teaching English and job skills to first generation citizens.
(if your audience is a representative of the client base)
I work with (name). We help first generation citizens learn English and the job skills they need to apply for a job in NYC.
For job seekers
‘I have spent my career as a_________. My work has (action word and benefit for target audience). My next move is to work with XX’
I am a fundraiser. Over my career I have raised $X for organizations that improve the lives of children. My current position with XX is ending and I am looking for opportunities with another nonprofit that helps children.
I’ve spent XX years in new business development. What I love most is customer insight and research. I am looking to change course and help start-ups better understand and service their customers.
Practice what you have written – in the mirror, to your pets, children, partner and friends. See what works. Have fun!
Now you are ready to network well,
grow your business and expand your career.