New Grad Perspectives: "What Do You Do?"

My name is Meg Runyan. I'm a recent graduate of the Costa Rica School of Massage Therapy and am pursing my massage therapy license in IL. I'm excited for my new career of of helping people find relief from pain and reconnection with their bodies and I invite you to join me. Over the next several months I will be documenting my journey on the ClinicSense blog.


"What do you do?" How many times have I had that conversation in the last four months? Countless times. But it’s an important one. It’s how we network and get the word out about our services. And it’s up to us to not let it be a boring conversation.


A conversation about our career can be dynamic and interesting. It doesn’t have to be a mere statement of fact. These last few months I have been working on different ways to discuss my passion for massage therapy and how to introduce myself to potential clients. I don’t want to be caught flat footed and tongue-tied when someone asks me, “What do you do?”


A part of me still cringes at this idea of having a practiced speech. I don’t want to sound like someone talking from a script and who can’t deviate from her talking points. We want to strike a balance between fumbling for the right words and having an automated answer. The good news is there is a lot of room for creativity between the two. Yes, there is some preparation and good old speech practice involved in the process, but not to worry, it can be fun and it will make networking much more enjoyable.


I’ve been working on a one to two sentence answer to the “What do you do?” question. I’ve talked with colleagues and researched networking theories. Many sources agree the key to a good answer is to focus on your clients/customers, not yourself. Have your response include answers to the following questions:


  1. Who is my client?
  2. What do they need?
  3. What are they looking for?
  4. What do I provide?

Notice that it’s only until the fourth question that you become the subject. The key to a good networking conversation is to talk about your clients and how you help them. The question, “What do you do?” is actually a trick question. It’s not about you, it’s about the service you provide! Counterintuitive, I know!


I used to answer the question like this, “I am a massage therapist, because I am passionate about good health and massage therapy increases well-being.” Notice how I am the subject of the sentence and that the client is only vaguely implied at the end. After working with the above questions my answer has transformed into something like this, “I help people who are looking for relief from pain and tension. My clients want to improve their well being and quality of life. I provide a space for my clients to relax and rejuvenate.” And just like that, the focus of my answer is on my clients. I can then follow up by asking if the other person knows anyone who would benefit from my services.


So, I challenge you to look at how you introduce yourself or talk about your career. Try focusing on your services rather than yourself. See if that adds some spark to your conversations!