What Do You Do: Good or Bad Icebreaker?

What do you do?

There is a school of thought that asking a person what they do for a living is a poor way to network. I discovered this recently, while I was at a conference speaking with an old friend. He explained that he was tired of the question because there is so much more about a person than what they do for a living. I pondered the thought and I agreed at the time. However, I read a book recently that changed my thinking on whether or not this is a good question to ask somebody you meet. In Thou Shall Prosper: Ten Commandments for Making Money by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, he justifies why asking what you do for a living is an important icebreaker.

What do you do for a living is an important icebreaker

Lapin writes, “What do you do for a living? is a legitimate question because the inquirer really wants to know what the person does for other people. He or she is wondering how others find you useful. How you help your fellow humans is a proud part of your identity. The only person to be embarrassed by the question is one who has no answer.”

Wow, this really hit home to me. We should be proud of what we do. If we are ashamed or embarrassed we should probably be seeking other means of work. The question is valid and should be answered with pride.

Lapin continues, “… no matter how you serve your fellow humans, think of yourself as doing something fascinating; see yourself in business, rather than merely being something.”

What do you do for a living?

When I get asked what I do, I reply that I help people understand how to truly use digital marketing and interactive communication workshops so they will grow their business and retain employees.

What is it that you do? Take a moment right now to grab a piece of paper and a pen and write out a short paragraph. Repeat it out loud to yourself. How does it sound? If it feels good, read it to a colleague or your spouse for their opinion. My wife, Heather, provides me with feedback that always helps with everything from client work to writing my book, New Business Networking. Test your own answer to ensure it accurately paints a picture that someone asking will understand.

The next time you find yourself at a networking event, mixer or conference, don’t hesitate to ask someone what they do. Ask her a few follow-up questions to learn more about her business. When the time comes she will likely ask you what you do. Be proud to explain how you help people with your work. She may even become your next customer.

Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash.

Thank you for sharing.


"I consider myself to be quite good at networking, and this course gave me quite a few new tools for my toolbox! I put Dave Delaney's approach to the test in selecting and attending a conference less than 2 weeks ago, and I landed a new client. Now that's an amazing ROI! Thanks Dave!" - Lesley Antoun.


Better Conference Networking is on sale now. Learn everything you need to know to network effectively before, during, and after your next networking event, trade show or conference. Save a few bucks and get started today. 30-day money back guarantee.