Someone was telling me last week how cross he was when a friend of his, that should have known better, incorrectly introduced him to a potentially very interesting contact at a New Years reception. “it was obvious that he had not understood at all what I did for a living”. And so this got me wondering, if his friend did not know what he did for a living, then who did?

I find it amazing that most of us spend thousands of hours a year working at what we do but when it comes down to explaining it to someone else we simply cannot do it adequately. Most often we either try and skip the question completely or bore our enquirer into instantly forgetting by going into long and totally unnecessary detail. But yet, it can’t be that difficult can it?

A Doctor: ‘I attempt to make sick people better’

A Project Manager: ‘I make my client’s ideas reality’

A Financial Director: ‘I manage the flow of money throughout the business and ensure that it is accurately documented’

A Change Manager: ‘I attempt to bring about the changes my client requires, as smoothly as possible, within the given constraints’

If after our short description our enquirer is still interested in us they will probably ask either a ‘how’ or ‘why’ question: “that’s interesting, how do you do that?” or “Why on earth did you choose that for a living?”.

At this stage all you have to decide is either to engage more deeply or try and make an excuse and get away as fast as possible. The problem that most of us have with receptions is that we are forced into the role either to entertain or indeed be entertained, by listening with intent to whatever nonsense we are hearing, asking polite and enquiring questions along the way. But the importance of this exercise goes far beyond its use at a New Year’s reception.

In order for people to remember us they need to have a clear picture of who we are and what we do. The ‘who we are’, is mostly handled by our appearance and our mannerisms, but the ‘what we do’ is completely down to us to rehearse over and over again, until we have got it right to the various different levels of detail the circumstances require, for example: When being introduced to a new boss at work, or, during a telephone interview, or in a detailed interview in front of a panel of assessors. Whatever the situation, we need our explanation ready. I know mine, is yours?

Happy New Year,