"It's nice to meet you... what do you do for a living?" That is my least favorite question of them all. Entrepreneurs, can I get an Amen? How in the world do I describe myself? I am part Certified Financial Planner professional, part branding and marketing expert, part product creator, part expert at connecting people together, part writer, and part speaker... not to mention I can make a mean risotto. I finally figured out though that I must not be the only one out there that feels this way, or that hates that dreaded question.
I built my first business when I was wet behind the ears at the age of 19 in college. If only I could re-create that fearlessness everyday! If anything, the many years of networking where the "what do you do for a living" question has been asked taught me a few handy lessons in just how you answer that question. Perhaps, fellow entrepreneur, you can find some value in my chaos.
First: Show Up To The Dance
I've used the, "but I don't want to go network," line many times in the past. You can create a mental block to this kind of group, forced to engage, activity. The best medicine to cure this ailment is just to "show up to the dance." Set up a schedule for yourself and attend at least one networking event a month, even if you have to do it online. Use the mind over matter method and enter with a positive, I can do anything, attitude. After all, if you are in the type of career where you need to network, chances are the person next to you is having the same internal struggle as you are.
Second: Be A Brand
For many years I've wanted to be able to say, "Hi I'm Shannah and I am a (teacher, lawyer, writer, doctor, and accountant)", etc. Basically, I wanted to be a one word answer my whole life. Reverse. What? No, that's not what I want or who I am. It's time to use my own "recipe for success" on myself, and you can too.
Dare to be different. Here's my example: "Hi, my name is Shannah and I deal in Dollars & Sense." (There's always a follow up question here, which I've learned is a good thing.) What does that mean? "Well, I utilize my MBA and CFP skills to help entrepreneurs and small business owners to "Start Thinking Dollars & Sense" in relation to their financial planning, branding and marketing." I do get my fair share of blank stares, but that allows me then to give an example of a client I've worked with, or tell a story.
Lastly: A Fumble Is A Win
To use a sports analogy, I hate to fumble the ball, especially when I am in the midst of, what I think is a key play. Fumbling the "ball" in a networking situation is actually a good thing. Perfect is way overrated. So what, you stumble on your words, or you start explaining what you do and you realize you aren't making much sense. What I've learned is that by showing up, being a brand, and occasionally fumbling, fellow networkers actually remember me, for the good. They like originality, and it shows when you break the mold.
Entrepreneurs; let's collectively exhale a sigh of relief, because we don't have to be just one thing. We can be many things, find the through line, and never fear the "what do you do for a living" question again.
Follow Shannah L. Compton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shannahgame