What do you do?

Someone recently asked me the age old question, “What do you do?”. I answered, “I work at a nonprofit”. When asked, I typically answer in that way. Oftentimes I’ll add that I work at Echoing Green, and sometimes I’ll even include the mission of the organization. However, none of these things really tells someone what I actually spend my days doing and why I’m tremendously passionate about it. So when I thought about it, I realized that my answer needed to change. Then I thought, what if everyone’s answer changed?

We are so often put in boxes that are constraining and don’t allow us to fully and honestly answer questions. We spend time networking, speed-dating, and filling out forms that require us to use the most basic and quick terms to explain ourselves. We need to keep our answers short and we are under the assumption that we need them to be simple so that others understand. Saying you work at a bank is much easier than saying that you are an investment banker at an alternative asset management firm focusing on mergers and acquisitions in foreign markets. One might even add on that they also are starting to think about impact investing and how they can support for-profit organizations which a social mission and triple bottom line. While longer, it gives someone a much clearer picture of their work and passion, and also eliminates any immediate assumptions. I also know that it will set the tone for a much more interesting conversation to follow.

So even if we can’t change the question, let’s change the answer, and subsequently, the conversation. “I work at Echoing Green, an early stage seed-funder for the world’s most innovative social entrepreneurs. I am building and launching our newest program to prepare young corporate leaders for board service through an experiential four-month leadership program. I also spend my time writing about impact, exploring NYC, and doing a lot of yoga.”

Now let me ask – what do you do?

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