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When What You Do is Esoteric and Hard to Explain

pic-faq-4When someone asks “What do you do?” do you find it really hard to give a coherent answer?

Is it because the actual work you do is subtle and complex and involves a level of understanding of things that most people don’t know anything about, and are possibly a little afraid of or uncertain about?

If so, I get you. But I want to suggest something that you might not have thought of. Maybe you don’t need to explain what you do to people when they ask. At least not the way you thought.

Let’s take a completely unrelated field. When people ask me, “What do you do?”, I could tell them. “Well, I code websites in HTML, and CSS, using WordPress usually, which means sometimes I write some PHP, or research plugins and themes and…”. But if I did that, their eyes would glaze over. They don’t really care. And all those acronyms are unfamiliar and often make people put up their hands and say, “I don’t know anything about computers!”. That’s not the response I’m looking for.

My point is that everyone’s work is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t do it. It always involves a lot of complexity, jargon, and a degree of knowledge that is intimidating to someone who knows nothing about it.

That’s why you shouldn’t explain what you do.

When people ask me what I do, I don’t explain anything but what they can understand and is relevant to them. “I build websites for small business owners.”. If they seem interested I might add, “I focus on people who help people, like therapists and coaches and bodyworkers. I work with these folks because I’m passionate about helping people but I’m not cut out to be a therapist, and also, they often really need help with their websites but don’t have a lot of money. I’ve created streamlined ways to make it affordable for them.”. Now that’s not going to win any elevator pitch awards, but it does give people a pretty good idea of who I could help, what I could do for them, and what makes me different than other web designers. That’s all they need to know to say, “Hey, I know someone like that…can I have your card”?

When you start to think, “Nobody understands what I do!”, then remember that this is correct. And it’s the same for all of us. Nobody will understand what you do or why it works or really care, except other people in your profession. What people do care about is what you can do for them, and just enough of why you are different or awesome to convince them that you know your stuff.

If you have an esoteric modality, you don’t have to say what it is. “I help people with stubborn pain from old injuries. It’s like chiropractic work, but gentler and more effective.”. “I help people in chronic pain reduce the stress it causes and live better lives”. “I help creative people who constantly struggle with writer’s block or artistic block be more consistently productive.”

Aim for statements so understandable and clear that your postman would get it, and then explain it to his grandma after he gets off work and she would get it too. Something as simple as, “I deliver mail, every day but Sunday”.

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