A few months ago, I sent out an email asking people if they hate being asked what they do—and if so, why.
And my inbox BLEW. UP.
People experience a range of emotions when asked this simple, seemingly innocuous question, from mild loathing and slight fatigue to total overwhelm, dread, even panic.
Why? Because they hate what they do? Some of them, sure.
But most people I heard from just get flummoxed when asked to define it in a sentence—because they do lots of different things and they don’t know where to begin, or they’re afraid they’ll come across as boring or unimpressive, or, frankly, like an asshole.
You’re probably not an asshole. But honestly, a lot of people pointed to their parents! They said, “I was told it wasn’t nice to talk about myself.” Or, they were raised in the shadow of other guilt-inducing institutions (looking at you, Catholic Church), who believe that you must be meek and self-flagellating to make it into the kingdom of heaven.
That may be so. But I’m just not in a kingdom of heaven mindset right now. Are you?
Fact is, I believe that you, that lady, and that guy over there all have something valuable to say, share, and talk about. And that if we approached the question differently, we would feel differently about it.
I also believe that talking about what you do can be fun, and not at all like being asked to testify in court against yourself.
I’ve just introduced a brand-new, full-day, face-to-face virtual workshop that draws on my skills and toolbox as a brand and messaging advisor, consultant, and writing workshop leader—and I think you might be into it.
The goal? To help you feel clear, confident, and expansive in your approach to the question “What do you do?” instead of like an unsorted ball of nerves and angst.
In the meantime, I wanted to answer some of the questions I’ve been getting about it and who it’s for.
YOUR QUESTIONS, ANSWERED!
Who is this workshop for?
This workshop is ideal for the person looking to gain greater insight and clarity into their career, work, business, or art. You could be a full-time employee considering your next move, or a business owner or coach who’s struggled for years with how to talk about what you do. An artist who has a hard time speaking about your work publicly. A public speaker who gets stuck when it comes to talking about themselves and what they do. Or, you may be looking to build your network and find yourself hamstrung by the question everyone asks, “So, what do you do?”
If any of this sounds like you, you’re going to find this day tremendously valuable.
What’s the workshop format?
We’ll be meeting face to face on Zoom in a meetings format for an interactive, hands-on workshop. Not a sit and stare at a screen for six hours kind of thing. You’ll have plenty of time to do some work and play, all with helpful feedback. We encourage all participants to be on camera; however, if you need to switch off your camera while you listen that’s ok too. We just ask that if you would like to speak/share on the call, that we can see you. We’ll be taking an hour-long break at 11:45a ET, and then another shorter afternoon break.
I feel really self conscious talking about myself, and talking in general. Will I have to do that here?
No one is going to force you to do anything. If you prefer to do more listening than speaking, that is totally ok! In fact, the point of the workshop is to help you find confidence and agency in your own work so that it’s easier to speak up when you want to (or have to!). I’ll add that this is about as safe an environment as you’ll find because there is no criticism or judgment of you or your work. This isn’t about fixing; this is about using intuitive tools for gaining clarity and insight.
I’m good at what I do. I just have a hard time explaining it. Is this for me?
Yup. Rather than try to crowbar your work into words—or worse, a cute or clever tagline—we’re going to give you ways of exploring the vibrant connections between what you do so that you feel better and clearer when talking about it.
What if I’m not even clear about what it is I do?
It’s one thing to not be sure what to wear. It’s another not to know if you have a wardrobe. Sometimes a lack of clarity can mean a few things. It may mean that you have a hard time choosing which thing to tell which people, or when to talk about what. It may be that you feel more confident talking about some things than others, but feel conflicted about what to lead with. In terms of clarity, I certainly can’t tell you what job to apply for or what business to run. But what we will do during the workshop is get a fresh perspective of our work and new approaches for discussing it, so you feel empowered, not overwhelmed.
What if I’m in transition and am not sure what I’ll be doing six months or even six weeks from now?
That’s ok! In fact, being in transition is a really exciting place to be. When things are in flux, it means you have options and ideas, and plenty of room for opportunity and growth. And it’s a great time to be having meaningful conversations about your work. We’ll spend some time talking about the past-present-future binds we can get into, and how to use time as a tool for talking about what we’re doing, so that we don’t feel stuck or defensive or unsure.
Do I need an elevator pitch?
No. This isn’t about your One Perfect Pitch. This workshop is about having options, flexibility, and modular responses to just about any conversation that involves your work. We will not be trying to force you into a box or stamp a tag line across your head.
Are you going to write my pitch for me?
No. This is a group workshop in which you will have opportunities to volunteer to share your work, but the experience is one in which we create the conditions for you to explore breakthroughs of your own—and it doesn’t mean you leave with one all-purpose pitch either. Because that isn’t the point. You’re going to leave with new ideas to talk about what you do that invite conversation and interest, and the tools to keep re-exploring them any time you like!
What if I do lots of things? How do I choose one area or focus?
Depends on where you want to grow or whom you most want to communicate with. And you don’t have to narrow that focus for this one day. You can use the workshop as a day to explore all the ways in which your work connects, or you can think about how to differentiate how you talk about your business with different people. I can’t tell you what you should do next in your career in the context of this workshop, but this day will give you a fantastic opportunity to explore what it is that matters most to you.
I heard there will be writing. What if I’m not a good writer?
Not to worry! You’re not writing essays or being judged on your writing or grammar. That’s not the point at all. While writers obviously love the chance to explore words and thoughts on the page, so does everyone else, I’ve found! This approach has a way of tapping the natural creators and writers inside of all of us. Most importantly, we use writing as a TOOL, not as a “result” or metric to measure ourselves by.
How is this different from your other writing workshops?
I lead lots of Gateless-style workshops, all of which make use of writing as a tool for self discovery, for asset development, for exploring your work, art, and business. This is the only workshop I offer where we focus specifically on talking about your actual work, and how all the pieces connect in order to communicate the value of what you do to someone else.
What is the Gateless Method?
The Gateless Writing Method is an approach to creative, professional, and self development that seeks to quiet the critic and amplify voice, agency, and power in the work—and we do this by making use of writing practice to access intuition, memory, and story. We do this by creating a sturdy and safe container, governed by a few strict rules: No disclaiming, no criticism or judgment, no going off the page and talking about something other than the work at hand, and feedback consists of specific and positive observations of the work. You can learn more about the Gateless Method here.
What do I need to prepare?
Zero! Just get a good night’s sleep!
What should I bring to the workshop?
A notebook if you prefer to write longhand, or you can just use your computer. You’ll also need a stack of post-it notes in different colors and surface where you can move them around (ideally, a table or a wall).
Will there be a recording of the workshop?
Yes! Registered attendees all get access to the workshop. The recordings will also be made available for purchase to non-attendees after the workshop.