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How to Answer the “What Do You Do for a Living?” Question (With Examples)

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Oh, this question… “what do you do for a living?”

I cannot tell you how much I despise this question. Over the years, I have realized it is because people have zero clue what I do. But, the comments are hurtful.

Me, personally, I work on creating passive income streams and have chosen two ways to do that blogging and day trading.

Here are my examples of answering the question: What do you do for a living?

Stranger: what do you do for a living?

Me: I’m a blogger.

Stranger: oh really, bloggers don’t make money. You are completely wasting your time.


Stranger: what do you do for a living?

Me: I’m a day trader.

Stranger: Are you nuts? Trading the stock market is so risky. I guess you like gambling.

Seriously, I could go on and on on this topic. The comments are meant to be hurtful, but over and over, it takes a toll. Thankfully, I am blessed and can remember back to the ways I choose to make money online and be grateful for my success.

Everyone has been asked, “So what do you do for a living?”

It can be tough to find your own personal way of answering such questions without sounding too generic. I’ve created a list of some potential answers and how someone might go about handling these situations.

If you're ever asked what you do for a living, here are some tips on how to answer. Whether you're unemployed or just between jobs, this guide has you covered. Plus, if you're a stay-at-home parent or student, there's advice for you too.

What is the best way to answer the question “What do you do for a living?”

The best way to answer the question “What do you do for a living?” is to be prepared. This means that you should have a clear and concise answer ready beforehand.

Practice your answer:

Make sure to practice your answer so that you sound confident and polished when you give it. This can be done by rehearsing your response out loud or in front of a mirror.

Be positive:

When answering this question, it is important to remain positive and enthusiastic about what you do. This will help to make a good impression on the person asking the question. And reinforce the money affirmations you are working on.

Be specific:

Finally, be sure to be specific when answering this question. This means giving details about your job or career path that will help the other person understand what it is you do.

Why, “So what you doing question” is difficult for some people to answer

Some people find it difficult to answer this question because it is too personal. They may feel like they are revealing too much about themselves or their life circumstances.

Some people find it difficult to answer this question because they are afraid of sounding boring. They think that their job or career choice isn’t interesting enough to talk about. Or they aren’t proud of what they are doing right now.

When is “What do you do for a living?” commonly asked?

“What do you do for a living?” is a common question that people are asked in various situations.

It may be asked when networking, during an interview, or when meeting someone for the first time.

There are many ways to answer this question, and the situation will dictate the best response. However, some general tips include being prepared with a brief overview of your job and experience, tailoring your answer to the person who is asking, and avoiding sounding too negative or boastful.

Examples are provided below to help guide you in answering this question.

Networking

When someone asks you “What do you do for a living?” at a networking event, it is important to be prepared with an answer that will help you make a good impression and create opportunities for further conversation.

Here are some tips on how to respond to this question:

  • Keep your answer brief and to the point.
  • Focus on what you do rather than where you work.
  • Highlight your skills and experience.
  • Use keywords that describe your industry or sector.
  • Be prepared to talk about your work in more detail if the person shows interest.

Many potential career opportunities can come from how you answer this question. So, be diligent in your answer.

Social gatherings

“What do you do for a living?” is commonly asked at informal social gatherings. This question is usually asked as a way to get to know someone better.

It can be a good icebreaker question. But, it can be horribly awkward as well.

You can get this question at family events, on the school playground, at your kid’s activities, or at parties with friends and neighbors.

It’s a way for people to get to know each other and see if they have any common interests. And unfortunately, the “I’m better than you” comparison is likely to happen.

Ways to describe your job

People are curious about what their peers do for a living, and they often ask this question when they meet someone new. Here are ways to describe how you make a living.

  1. I work in (industry) as a (job title).
  2. I’m a (job title) in the (industry).
  3. I help people/companies with (a problem you solve).
  4. I work with (type of client) to help them with (the problem you solve).
  5. My job is to (one-line description of what you do).
  6. I am in charge of/responsible for (the task you do at work).
  7. In my role as a(n) (job title), I am responsible for/in charge of (the task you do at work).
  8. I specialize in helping people/companies with(area of expertise).

It is helpful to develop an elevator speech to answer this question.

“What Do You Do for a Living?” Examples

Picture of a networking event for what do you do for a living examples.

Generally, the more specific you are at answering this question, the better your chances of making a good impression.

If you want a quick, personalized response for your audience without having to write or speak much at all, something like “I’m a software engineer” or “I’m a teacher” will suffice.

If you want to stand out and make a good impression, then use one of the examples below.

Generic Examples

Example 1: I’m a [noun] who helps [target audience] do [verb].

Example 2: I’m a [noun] who helps businesses, organizations, and individuals to __________.

Sales

I work in sales. I help companies increase their revenue by finding new customers and selling them products or services. Since I usually work on commission, so the more I sell, the more money I make.

Teacher:

I’m a teacher. I help people learn new things and reach their potential. I love seeing my students succeed, whether it’s in school or in life.

Police officer:

I’m a police officer. I keep the peace and protect people from harm. It’s a dangerous job, but it’s also very rewarding.

Nurse:

I’m a nurse. I care for sick and injured people and help them get well again. It’s a demanding job, but it’s also very rewarding to see patients recover under my care.

Engineer:

I’m an engineer. I design and build things that solve problems or make people’s lives better in some way.

What if you have more than one job?

There are many reasons why people might have more than one job.

You don’t have to hide behind the fact that you have more than one job. Typically, most people assume you have more than one job because you need extra money to make ends meet.

However, with so many people learning how to make money online for beginners. It is cool and trendy to have more than one way to make income. Don’t be afraid to share!

Make a Plan for Those Most Awkward Situations

Everyone gets asked “What do you do for a living?” and the best answer is to have a premade statement. The issue happens when we actually get asked by our loved ones, colleagues, or acquaintances.

However, sometimes you need a good answer for the following examples.

What if you’re unemployed?

If you’re unemployed or between jobs, it is not okay to lie about your occupation.

Just be honest, even if you want to sugarcoat the truth. Just say, “I’m currently unemployed, but I’m actively looking for work. I’ve been sending out resumes and going on interviews, but so far I haven’t had any luck. I’m hoping to find something soon.”

You don’t want people to think that you’re not doing anything with your time, and if they ask what you do for a living, just tell them the truth- even if it’s not what you want them to know.

If you’re unemployed, you’re not currently working. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including being laid off from your job, taking time off to raise a family, or going back to school.

Be honest and say you are working to determine what should I do for a living.

What if you’re retired?

If you’re retired, you can simply say that you’re retired. You don’t need to go into any further detail unless the person asking seems interested.

If the person asking seems interested, you can talk about what you used to do before you retired and why you decided to retire. You can also talk about what you like to do now that you’re retired.

What if you’re a student or young adult?

If you’re a student, you can say that you’re currently studying at a university or college. Alternatively, if you’re not currently studying, you can mention what field of study you’re interested in pursuing.

When answering this question, it’s important, to be honest about your current situation. However, you should also try to sound enthusiastic about your future prospects.

For example, if you’re currently studying, you could talk about how much you enjoy learning new things and how excited you are to see what the future holds.

What to say if you’re between jobs?

This happens for a variety of reasons.

Just say, “I’m between jobs right now. I just finished up my last job a few weeks ago and I’m starting my new position in a couple of weeks.”

What if you’re a stay-at-home parent?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but there are definitely some ways to respond that will make you sound more impressive than others.

First, avoid saying anything that might make you sound like you’re not really doing anything with your time. For example, don’t say something like “Oh, I just stay home with the kids.” Instead, try to focus on the positive aspects of what you’re doing.

Some stay-at-home parents use their time to volunteer, take care of family members, or even run their own businesses. Whatever it is that you’re doing, try to emphasize how valuable and important it is.

Here is what to say: “I’m a stay-at-home parent. I take care of my kids full-time and I love it. It’s a lot of work but it’s also really rewarding.”

Extra stay-at-home parent or homemaker tips

If you’re a stay-at-home parent or homemaker, you may get asked the question, “What do you do for a living?” This can be an easy or difficult question for you to answer, so here are some tips to make it easier.

First, remember that being a stay-at-home parent or homemaker is a valid and important job. You may not get paid in money, but you certainly get paid in love and satisfaction.

Second, don’t be afraid to talk about what you do. Stay-at-home parents and homemakers perform many vital tasks such as caring for children, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and more. Be proud of the work you do!

Third, if someone asks you this question in a negative or judgmental way, simply smile and say something like, “It’s the best job in the world!”

What do you do for a living?

Picture of a smiling lady for what do you do for a living.

The best way to answer the question is, to be honest, and give a brief explanation of what you do.

For example, if you are a stay-at-home mom, you could say something like, “I’m a stay-at-home mom. I take care of my kids and manage the household.”

If you work outside the home, you could say something like, “I work in marketing for a company that sells XYZ products.”

We gave you make examples of how you might answer the question. Be proud of what you do for a living.

How do you ask what you do for living?

Drawing of a group of people wondering how do you ask what you do for living.

“What do you do for a living?” is one that can be difficult to answer, especially if you’re not sure how the person asking the question wants you to respond.

There are a few different ways you can answer this question, and it really depends on what you want to share with the person asking.

If you’re comfortable sharing what you do for a living, then you can simply tell them what your job is. For example, “I’m a doctor” or “I work in marketing.”

If you don’t want to share too much information about your job, or if you’re not comfortable discussing it, then you can give a more general answer. For example, “I help people” or “I work with numbers.”

Make Connections with Shared Interests

You can also use this question as an opportunity to talk about your hobbies or interests. For example, “I like to read” or “I like to go hiking.”

Whatever way you choose to answer the question, make sure that your response is honest and genuine.

Once you have the conversation started, it is easier to continue and move on from there.

Be Honest about your Day Job

The first thing you want to do is be honest and realistic about what you do for a living or how much money you make. You don’t want to pretend that you are a doctor or lawyer if, in reality, you work as an assistant for one. You also don’t want to say that your job is boring when it isn’t. For example, if you work in a factory and your job is to put labels on boxes all day, don’t say that you are an artist.

If you have more than one job then it is important, to be honest about that. Don’t try to make your second job sound more important than it really is, but also don’t say that you are unemployed if you do have another job.

Focus on the Strengths of What you are doing

You can also talk about what your job means to you and how it makes you feel. For example, if you are a teacher then say that being able to help children learn is very rewarding for you.

  • If you don’t like your job then you can always say that it is just a way for you to pay the bills and that you are working on something else in your spare time.
  • If you are a doctor then you can say that it is very rewarding to help people and that you enjoy the challenge of diagnosing patients.
  • Working in an office? Then say that it is interesting to learn about different industries and the people who run them.

It is also good to mention any interesting projects or assignments that you have worked on.

Your tone can be friendly or serious, depending on the situation.

Know someone else that needs this, too? Then, please share!!

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