Oh, What do You Do? Challenge

January 22, 2007 - Get free updates of new posts here

At a few parties this weekend I got asked “What do you do?”

I hate this question. I hate it more when you ask this before you even ask my name. I think we love to judge people and “value” them right away. I like getting to know people!

Challenge: Hold out on the “What do You Do?” question until the other person asks you. If the other person asks before you, you win. Shout out “I Win.”

What are some questions you can ask instead?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

28 responses to “Oh, What do You Do? Challenge

  1. Daniel Elmore Reply

    I think a lot of starter questions have the potential to be motivated by a how-much-of-my-time-is-this-person-worth judgement, perhaps “what do you do?” is just the leader. After all, learning about what someone does for a living is a vital part in getting to know that person! 🙂

    How about:
    – Where are you from?
    – So who do you know here?
    – So how do you like living in city-name?
    – Innie or outie?
    – What do you think about current-news-event/topic-of-party?
    – So how did you hear about this party/event?

  2. ANatividad Reply

    It’s tough to replace a question like that because it drags things down to the lowest common denom.

    “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” – a mite pretentious but, well-executed, it adds a sense of intimacy and gets the person thinking…

  3. Wendyness Reply

    I have a tendency to throw it in heavy, “What’s your passion?” Doesn’t matter if I’m at a bar or UX meeting, it always seems to make people pause and think in a good way.

  4. Noah Mittman Reply

    As conversation starters, I’m much more interested in where people are from and where they live than anything else, but that’s just me being a native New Yorker, and always getting a major kick out of what people think of the city and how much they’ve held onto their old town post-assimilation.

  5. Rob Reply

    “Who do you think you are?”
    brings out alot
    the insecure ones will hedge
    bold ones will brag
    in between muddle through
    What you think you are is what you are.

  6. Susan Jones Reply

    “Hey, I’ll bet you surf the net, right?”
    “what is your fav site these days?”
    “I’m always looking for new content.”

    When I’m asked of course I always start with
    Mr. Dorks site, right here.

    This line has worked for every new person I’ve met in a social setting,
    generally from there it leads to family, marital status, living place, and
    what it is that puts food and roof over ones head.

    I usually have a new site to visit to boot!

    well, there was this really good looking drop dead beaut of a blonde with the best killer body I’ve ever seen in my life, I mean legs up to her ears, that asked
    “site?” “net?”
    My husband took over from there.

  7. Berry Reply

    How about:
    Got a job? (I personally have nightmares about having a job… really- I would be a lousy employee.)


    maybe just- “What keeps you busy.” similar to “What are you up to these days.”

    But really- before they know ask your name? WHOWA

  8. Jason L. Baptiste Reply

    are you funded?
    do you know mike arrington?
    what does web 2.0 mean?
    do you think google will buy my company?
    how much do you think entrepreneur X is worth?
    how many people read your company blog?
    dont you think valleywag’s gossip on X Blogger is so true and that X Blogger is an asshole?
    when is your company going to do 100 million in revenue?
    are you SURE you don’t know mike arrington?

    oh wait… that was the ANTIquestion list.


  9. Jason H. Reply

    “What brought you here?”

    “Any particular speaker you are here to see?”

    Next time I’m gonna try, “Have you checked out OKdork.com, it’s a pretty cool blog?”

    btw, Wendyness and Susan, thanks for the questions, I think they are great conversation starters 🙂

  10. DK Reply

    I’m with Wendyness on this and my opener is: what do you do to make this world a better place?

    We then all sit around, light some josticks and meditate 🙂


  11. Bernadette Balla Reply

    No no no no no.I’m sick of hearing people talk about their companies.I am a COO of this VP of that. So boring, try telling me that and i will excuse myself. That conversation is usually better after you get to know someone well into the night.

    I always ask random questions and people will look at me funny. There is this one time i was talking to a guy at a party about how fascinated I am with horror movies and how much i like to blood wrestle. And he goes “what’s your name again?”

    And i’ll give u a tip, for the best Question to ask , are u ready *drumroll please*

    ……What is your favourite drink?………..

    Ya that always gets the ball rolling, but i really like meeting people and i dont care what they do, i know a lot of homeless ppl down market street in sf, if u want i can introduce you to them.

  12. Jason H. Reply

    Bernadette, that’s another great opener 🙂

    I especially like the gathering that has an open bar, in which I can ask people, “What are you drinking?” or “How’s your drink?”, etc… As for me, Bud Light, Heiny, and Vodka with Coke are some of my favorites 🙂

    What abou you, Noah, what’s your favorite drink?

  13. Jason H. Reply

    Long Island Ice Tea, Mmmm that’s good stuff, a bit too strong for me…

    I’d thought that you’re a Corona kinda guy–Burrito’s best friend is Corona (w/lime of course!)

  14. Danny Boice Reply

    Have you read “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” by Malcolm Gladwell?

    I’m read it now and it’s uncanny how quickly you realize the “flash judgments” you make of people without even realizing you’re doing it. How many candidates have you walked in to interview for your company and consciously or subconsciously made a decision within the first 3 seconds? I know it’s hard to admit or hard to realize but we all do it.

    The point is, even before asking “what do you do” (which I hate too by the way) we have already made a judgment and likely a decision that is very hard to sway.

    I guess when you really get to the bottom of it all – what’s the point of even asking?

  15. China Market Blog Reply

    I wish people would ask me that more often. When you live as an expat in an asian country, the first question is “ni shi na guo ren?” (where are you from), the next : “you speak so well, how long have you been here?”, and only then do they get a message that I’m here for business and ask “what do you do?”

    p.s. Noah, I see your blog promotion is going forward, any advise for a business blog?

  16. Gavin Heaton Reply

    It could be worse. You could be asked which school/college you went to 😉

    But then, when you go to a bloggers meet … the question is … “what is your blog?”. I am sure most bloggers answer this one.

    So … we are happier to talk and be open about the things that we love but we are more guarded about the things that we are paid to do! Goes to show what we consider is important.

  17. Leil Lowndes Reply

    Noah, you are soooo on target with this one. I wish I’d seen some of your suggestions before my book, “How to Talk to Anyone” went to press. I do a whole chapter on that insensitive question! I wish more people had your insight.

    Many thanks,