Trying to explain your job? Don’t.

“What do you do?” someone asks. Unfortunately, your answer sounds like this:

You: “I’m a technical, technical, technical. And what that means, basically, is that you’ll never understand my job. No one does. Most days, I don’t even understand it. My spouse has given up trying. So she just tells people I’m a dental hygienist.”

Other person (trying to be polite): “Your job sounds very technical.”

Here’s the problem: they can’t picture your job. And that’s because they’ve never seen it on TV. Or in real life.

Sure, there are exceptions. If you’re a doctor, lawyer, or cop, everyone gets it. At least they get what you do on TV.

But there are 12,000 other occupations. Most are specialized, and outside of everyday experience.

Solution? Use an analogy. Compare your complicated job (that’s hard to picture) with something simple (easy to picture).

For example:

1) “I’m like a weatherman who has to predict the financial climate. I tell people that, sooner or later, it’s going to rain. I just have no idea when” (economic forecaster).

2) “I’m like a lion tamer, except that I work with people” (executive coach).

3) “I’m a psychiatrist for machines. Everyone calls me when their computer acts weird” (IT support).

True, they still won’t remember most of what you say. But they’ll probably remember the image, and that means, they’ll probably remember you.

So what’s your job like? Look for an image.

As for me: “I’m like a Brink’s truck. I help business leaders deliver more value with less risk in high-stakes communications.”


If, later today, you meet three other consultants who talk about biz communication, I’m betting that tomorrow, you’ll remember the truck.

Tip: When you’re explaining something complicated, make it easy to picture. Use analogies.

© Copyright 2013 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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