“What do you do?”
It’s the question many IT professionals dread, but sooner or later you know someone is going to ask what you do for a living.
There’s nothing wrong with our career choice, but it’s usually pretty tricky to explain what we do in a non-technical way.
How many times have you replied by saying you work in IT? I’m guessing it’s the exact same number of times you’ve watched the conversation die right there, unless of course you’re speaking to another IT worker.
Thankfully, there is a better way to get across your line of work without the other person’s eyes glazing over.
When someone asks what you do, you don’t have to answer with a job title. The trick is to provide a tempting little slice of information that’s vague enough to stimulate curiosity and get the other person wanting to know more.
For example, instead of saying you work in IT, you could say, “I help businesses improve their customer experience.”
That might provoke a question such as, “Oh okay, what does that entail? Are you a consultant of some kind?”
Don’t just say Yes (or No)!
Instead of replying in the affirmative/negative then giving your job title, ask another question to get the person talking.
Continuing the above example, you could ask, “Well, as a customer yourself, you know how buying something can be a really frustrating experience?”
At that point the conversation could come to life as the other person responds with something like, “Tell me about it! The other day I was trying to buy a new TV online and whenever I tried to checkout it kept rejecting my credit card. I know the card was fine because I’d just used it to fill up my car.”
Ask more questions
“So what happened? Did you manage to get it through?”
“No, I was so frustrated I abandoned it and tried another site. I had to pay £5 more on the delivery charge but the payment went straight through with no problems. My new TV was delivered this morning and I love it. I’m planning a Netflix binge this weekend.”
You now have an opportunity to steer the conversation a little more and explain what you do for a living with a real-world example.
You don’t just work in IT
Okay, it may not go as smoothly as I’ve illustrated here, but you can see how describing your job from a business or end-user perspective can be a much better conversation starter than, “I’m a DevOps Technical Lead” or “I’m a Postgres DBA”.
With a little practice, this technique can be highly effective.
Of course, if you know the other person is in IT, to avoid annoying them you’re probably better off just coming out and saying “I’m an enterprise architect” or “I’m a Node.js developer”.
Give it a try!