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How to Answer the “What Do You Do?” Networking Question

Whether you excel at or shy away from networking, here’s how you can master the elevator pitch and answer “What do you do?” like a pro. [TWEET]

There are two types of people in the world: those who think networking events are fun and everybody else. One of the things that can make networking especially painful to some is the part where everyone goes around the room and gives their ‘elevator pitch,’ or the 30-second spiel that captures the essence of what they do or what kind of job they’re looking for. Whether you’re presenting in front of a crowd or just one-on-one, having a memorable and useful answer to the ‘What do you do?’ question is one of the most important networking tips you should consider.

In order to craft an award-winning introduction, consider borrowing a concept from the field of marketing (you are marketing yourself, after all). When promoting a product, a marketer has the choice to discuss either the product’s features or its benefits. Features are the things you can see, touch, or feel about a product. Benefits, on the other hand, are the advantages you get from a product. The rule of thumb in marketing is that features don’t sell a product, benefits do.

The reason so many elevator pitches are boring or unmemorable is that there is a strong tendency with people to talk only about their professional features – what it is they do and how they do it – which is not likely to leave a lasting impression.

Benefits are much more enticing in an elevator pitch. Do you provide a competitive advantage by creating customer loyalty? Have you saved your employer thousands of dollars by creating efficient, new systems? You get the idea. Really focus on the impact of what you do and not just the tasks you have mastered. [TWEET] Make sure your benefits are not too over the top or you will venture into the dreaded cheesy zone. For example, instead of leading with something like, “I save companies from going out of business,” try one of these sample statements instead:

  • “I lead accounting departments that actually save companies money.” or

  • “I increase revenue through unique ways of creating brand loyalty.”

Ideally, your elevator pitch will intrigue people enough to want to hear more. Once you have something you like, practice saying it until it feels comfortable, but not rehearsed, and enjoy your next networking event.

Need additional networking tips for job seekers? Our TopResume writers can help!

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!