(Read time: 1 minute, Practice time: 10 Minutes)

My husband and I have been frequenting a small Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown. Last week, one particular dish caught my eye. Fish in caramel sauce. I am an adventurous eater, but there was no way I was ordering that.

Our server explained that this was classic Vietnamese cuisine and one of the most popular dishes on the menu.

We took the plunge.

What arrived from the kitchen was an aromatic, spicy clay pot-roasted fish. Absolutely delicious.

What I realized was that the menu writers were describing

process – how the fish was made, versus
outcome – how the fish would taste

Describing process rather than outcome happens to many of us when we are describing ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’.

How do you answer
“What do you do?”

Many lead with job description
“I am a director of development at XYZ” (what you do)

Fewer lead with
“I work at XYZ and we provide basic services for low income people in our community” (why it matters).

The first statement describes job function. That’s all. It is a narrow conversation starter.

The second statement leads with mission and passion and opens the door for further conversation about the organization and your role. It is a much richer entry point. Try practicing this approach.

The next time you find yourself at a networking event or cocktail party, open with outcome. See where the conversation leads.


Fish in Caramel Sauce (process)
Super Yummy Delicious Fish (outcome)

Reminder: Tune in or stream ‘Community Discussions’
WPKN 89.5 FM Bridgeport, CT this Saturday from 9-11AM

Guest: Suzanne Peters- VP, The Fund for Women and Girls, The Fairfield County Community Foundation (www.fccfoundation.org)