A 3 second answer to the question “And what do you do?”

Most of the people I meet who are drawn to the idea of getting paid to play are not single-stranded characters. They are creatively minded and have multiple interests and multiple projects (or at least multiple ideas they would like to pursue). Many of them as a result consider themselves to be a scanner.

One of the challenges though of being a person with multiple strings to your bow is answering the question “What do you do?” – the answer to which sometimes feels like it should be “How long have you got?”.

That’s why I was rather delighted to discover a simple solution called The 3 Second Statement from John Purkiss, co-author of the excellent book “Brand You: Turn Your Unique Talents Into a Winning Formula”.

As John says,

An elevator ride is far too long to hold most people’s attention. In the UK, you have three seconds before someone interrupts and says “Pass the biscuits”.

So here’s how to summarise what you do in 3 seconds as described in Brand You:

The next person you meet could lead you to a great opportunity. If they ask what you do, you may only have a few seconds to answer…

You therefore need a message that is concise and memorable. We call it your three-second statement. If you only say you are a headhunter, an accountant or a psychiatrist, the conversation may end there. If you mention two activities, at least twice as many people will want to know more. They will pick up on the topic that interests them most.

So pick two things you want to highlight and make those into your 3 second statement. John Purkiss’ own answer to “What do you do?” is “I’m a headhunter and I write books”. I’ve made mine, “I’m a writer and I run courses on getting paid to do what you love” or sometimes “I’m a writer and I run a monthly event for creative people called Scanners Night”.

You can vary what you include in your statement according to who is asking and what they are most likely to be interested in. This is particularly useful when you’re starting out in creating a new line of work. You will probably still be doing your old work to keep the money coming in while also building up a new income stream or career.

You can then use this in your 3 second statement: “I’m a website designer and I’ve recently qualified as a personal trainer” or “I work in HR and I write a blog about Indian food”.

So what’s your 3 second statement? Leave a comment and let us know…

How to build a brand using social media – this Wednesday

John PurkissJohn Purkiss is our speaker at Scanners Night in London this Wednesday and will be explaining more about how to build ‘brand you’ and grow your profile online using social media.

Read more and find out how to attend for £1 here

If you’re not in London, find out how to get the recording here.

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  • Lucy, your blog is brilliant! Really – the stories are so interesting. Sent you my contacts via your website. Talk to you soon. 

  • Katherine McKenney

    And I was flattering myself that you had me in mind! “I work in HR but I write 3 blogs about natural beauty, travel, and self improvement”

  • Katherine McKenney

    ouch that “but” is hostile!  I meant “and!”

  • Thank you so much, Heidi! Writing it is the easy bit, I’ve just been really lucky to interview some really fab people. Will be in touch soon.

  • Lourdes

    Wow.  In 3 seconds.  Great!  I’m a food pantry coordinator who plays music once a month at a Healing Mass.

  • John, I said in an e-mail to you: “don’t give me feedback on this, because I need to refine it further, to reflect the fact that my “flagship” topic is presentation skills.

    Draft 1 was: “I’m a writer & speaker; I’m also a voice actor.” 

    If I add my main speaking topic; also the fact I do some screen acting work, then draft 2 looks like this: 

    “I’m a writer, a speaker, a presentation skills trainer (or teacher or lecturer). I’m also a voice
    & screen actor.” 

    That’s too long, of course, so my final draft is cut to the bone: 

    “I’m a writer; and I teach presentation skills. I’m also an actor.”

    I’ve left out “speaker”, because a teacher of presentation skills would probably be recognised as someone who can also speak on other topics (though I’m not yet at Neil Mullarkey’s level of doing 2 hours without a script: see John’s fascinating interview with him, still available on the SWLP site). And anyone who finds the acting bit interesting would ask “what kind of acting?” 

    I very nearly left out “writer”, as so many people aspire to be writers and because I’ve only written two books, separated by 25 years; plus the performance side is what I enjoy best. But I now have a clearer idea of my next book, so I left it in.

    Any comments welcomed, John and fellow-Scanners!

  • Anonymous

    I’m a posturologist – I train people to get a body they love!

  • Matteo

    Very helpful in order to find inspiration and strenghten motivation.
    I would answer: “I’m an online entrepreneur and an offline business developer”…

  • It doesn’t really do it justice but I help business owners to make more money selling their stuff from social media 🙂

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  • Crumbs, am I not allowed my usual epic saga? 😉

    I help with writing to communicate, and design and publish roleplaying games.

  • Robbowley67

    Here goes..I help musicians deal with stress to find their winning performance..hows that???

  • Like it!! That’s a very valuable service.

    I hope you can find enough musicians who recognise the value of it and can afford to pay you. Sadly, most of the musicians that I know earn very little from their talent.

    Good luck!

  • I love this idea John! I’m a software developer and artist/photographer.

  • Pingback: Sheesh I Wish I Never Asked? (What Do You Do?) | OutOfBoxes()

  • Nadine London

    OK here are two, not sure which one to go with (have I already done this here?)

    I am an endurance athlete developing creative adventures with an edge in no time. 

    I develop creative adventures with an edge and have written a book. 


  • Anonymous

    Hi Nadine. I would go with something like “I am an endurance athlete and I just swam the entire length of the Danube” (or some other description of your most recent adventure). It’s just more exciting and begs further questions

  • Robbowley67

    Thanks for the comment michael that’s a very good point! I’m still in the writing stage at the moment. I wonder if there is any way one can research the possibility of people in a niche market being able to afford it?

  • The MU [http://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/] has 30,000 members and that could be a starting point. I guess only / mostly those musos who earn regular income from their art would find it worthwhile to pay the subs, so the challenge is how to get your offering in front of those people.

  • I’m a corporate energy management advisor and I work with
    executives who are fed up that their companies still manage energy use the 1980’s

  • Skyrocket22

    So if we think about play rather than work, would I not home in on what I like doing to attract attention and maybe an opening rather that continue on the dull dreary work, job, slog ethic?  here we go – “I train and own gundogs paid for by being a management consultant”