“So, what do you do?”

I still have the hardest time with introductions, even more so now that I’m doing something… different. I’m not a chirpy entrepreneur who’ll dash off an elevator pitch for a technology startup as soon as someone so much as provides an opening. I’m not a consultant angling for a lead or a job. I’m on a medium-term experiment with business and interestingness.

Helping people makes introductions much easier, and that’s what I talked about in The Shy Connector – turning it into a connect-the-dots game, looking for ways to help people. Sometimes it works out decently, and I can shape the conversations with questions. Other times, people fall back to old habits, perhaps uncomfortable with the focus on them. They ask, “So, what do you do?” or “So, where do you work?”

I’ve been testing different replies to this. Consultant? Web developer? Writer and developer is probably closest to what I’d like to focus on this next little while – or maybe something related to experiments… I’d rather talk about how I might be able to help instead of what label I fit neatly into, but I appreciate that many people need these mental hooks to be able to remember people or to quickly evaluate how much time a conversation is worth.

I like a different style of connecting, I guess. I connect slowly online through conversations that unfold over months, longer. In person, I like stacking the deck. It’s easier when I can offer something of value – hence, notes – and even easier when I’ve already helped someone. We skip the “So, what do you do?” aspect and jump straight into the middle of a conversation.

Three events next week, so I can play around with these ideas. =) We’ll see!

  • You used to describe yourself as a technology evangelist. I loved that term because it was positive, bold, and fresh. I think it could be a part of your elevator pitch, which, incidentally, can be more than just a job title.

    I have an elevator pitch only for IEEE, the world’s largest professional organization for technology professionals … blah blah. But for my career? Even when I try to explain to other engineers what I do, I get blank stares. Forget about a social occasion.

    Forgot if you mentioned whether you’re a Scanner (per Barbara Sher). If so, you might need a few different elevator pitches.

    • Ooh, that’s true, I could use that – it also includes “enterprise social business collaboration consultant”, and leads into that kind of conversation. (See, this is one of the things I love about blogging and connecting with people who are practically old friends. =) People remember things.)

      I like the work I’m currently doing on this consulting engagement, although I’m not planning to take on additional clients for a while. Gotta make space for writing, learning mobile development, and helping out with Emacs! So I think that’s the main thing I’m struggling with. I like what I do and I can certainly pitch it in a here’s-how-I-help way, but I want to explore a different path next. I’ll definitely need multiple approaches!

  • Aha! I’ve been thinking about this in too limited a way. The meetups I go to generally aren’t client-type meetups. They’re more like practitioner meetups. That means that instead of worrying about turning people down or looking like an amateur, I can focus instead on connecting with people who might find what I’m learning about business useful, or who might be able to share some of the things they’ve learned with me and with other people I’ll meet along the way.

    That’s much, much more manageable for me. I’m looking forward to trying the experiment approach, then, and focusing on sharing what I’ve been learning from people. That’s helpful even if I don’t end up directly working with anyone!