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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  • I'm a translator who also aims to entertain with music, words and games.

  • Malgorzata Piatkowska

    My usual answer is "don't ask" (less than 1 second). Which is pretty much why I subscribed to your blog in the first place 🙂

  • So have a go now at doing it with two elements!

  • That's a good one Steinarr. Makes me want to ask more. Can you drop the "Aims to" qualifier?

  • Dorothy Jackson

    Love this idea so here is my reply
    Local government worker and also teach yoga and meditation

  • I normally open like this: you know people who have creativity block or struggle to turn their passions into a service? I help them do it with ease 🙂

  • I'm a creativity coach and I run gentle retreats for stressed busy women who need a breathing space.

  • A Shackleton

    Brilliant. Here's mine: "I'm a writer and an archaeological anthropologist specialising in human evolutionary theory." That's usually enough to scare people off 😉

  • Sarah

    I sometimes say "I'm a multi-faceted freelancer", but people seem to look more confused than amused so I don't say it that often!
    I sometimes say "I'm a tutor", to which the next question is always "What do you tutor?". Then I'm very tempted to say "children" as a list of all the subjects and ages and stages is really long and tedious.

    So I guess I'd have to say something like: "I'm a children's tutor and academic coach who also gardens and makes things. How does that sound?

  • Teri

    I'm a guidance counselor and I run workshops for busy professional moms who want it all! I love this idea! Thank you!

  • Emma Lightfoot

    I'm an animal behaviourist and I also work in marketing

  • Mo Tobin

    I build mobile phone networks and I,m organising a mini rock festival

  • Jem Fox

    I like it - I wanna join in!

    I'm a traditional wooden boatbuilder, cabinet maker and environmental consultant.

  • I'm a pet sculpture artist in the day and a rock star at night.

  • michaelmac43

    This is a good discipline! My reply to this will take longer than 3 seconds. For a while now I have anyway been refining my self-description for social media sites. The one I have now will also do as my 3-second answer. 

    It's "I'm a writer & speaker; I'm also a voice actor." 

    I count that as two activities, rather than three, for this reason. Writing and speaking I count as parts of the same activity, because they are both creative and they feed into each other. My voice acting work is important from a cash-flow viewpoint but not creative (effective delivery of somebody else's words), thus I state it as being secondary.

    Having got this far (which is considerable progress in my unfocused Scannerish world) I might well refine it further, because I have now realised, through the Play To Win process, what my flagship topic will be. Therefore that topic ("Thinking on your feet: the theory and practice of making effective presentations") should probably be included in the 3-second answer. I might well have to drop the voice acting (from the answer, not from my life) to make space. Watch this space!MichaelPS: I'd struggle to say your own answer in three seconds, John, though I'm a fast talker. That proves what a challenging exercise this is!

  • michaelmac43

    This is a good discipline! My reply to this will take longer than 3 seconds. For a while now I have anyway been refining my self-description for social media sites. The one I have now will also do as my 3-second answer. 

    It's "I'm a writer & speaker; I'm also a voice actor." 

    I count that as two activities, rather than three, for this reason. Writing and speaking I count as parts of the same activity, because they are both creative and they feed into each other. My voice acting work is important from a cash-flow viewpoint but not creative (effective delivery of somebody else's words), thus I state it as being secondary.

    Having got this far (which is considerable progress in my unfocused Scannerish world) I might well refine it further, because I have now realised, through the Play To Win process, what my flagship topic will be. Therefore that topic ("Thinking on your feet: the theory and practice of making effective presentations") should probably be included in the 3-second answer. I might well have to drop the voice acting (from the answer, not from my life) to make space. Watch this space!MichaelPS: I'd struggle to say your own answer in three seconds, John, though I'm a fast talker. That proves what a challenging exercise this is!

  • Lisarisbec

    This is just what I needed! I'm an artist and I work part time in marketing for a charity!

    I always struggle to think of a way to ask that question without alienating people like me who do more than one thing. Any one have any ideas about a different question to ask that still lets me start a conversation about peoples passions?

  •  I love this! 🙂 Reminds me of how Michael Port makes your elevator speech into a conversation instead of a pitch. He says to use that kind of question about "You know people who...?"

  • I own Monthly Comfort Kits, I Love My Clients! Cards, and I have fun working with quirkypreneurs! 🙂

    I know that's probably too much to take in at once - though I should hope it sparks even a tiny bit of interest; but I think it's cool - on paper, at least! ;-P

    An simpler alternative would be:

    I own three businesses, but the one I'm focused on right now is working with quirkypreneurs. I love my clients! 🙂

    That one took 5 seconds; I'm a rebel. ^__^

  •  Currently, no. I guess that's what I'm working on. 🙂

  • Oh wow, that's a good'un. I'd definitely have follow up questions to that.

  • The cards sound interesting Shauna

  • How about something like "What are you into/most excited about right now?"

  • Wow, that is very cool

  • Another excellent one!

  • Ah yes, must book my ticket Mr Mo!

  • Fascinating! 

  • This is great, John, thanks.
    "I write lesbian erotica and help women enjoy their bodies."

  • I'm a scholar and Priestess. 

    🙂

  • Lisarisbec

    I like that! Thanks I will try it out!

  • Cillabella

    I like this too!  very helpful.  I'm justing overcoming being too embarrassed to say what I do.

    "I'm a textile designer and painter, and I organise creative workshops in the French countryside"

  • Thanks Shauna - great to connect with you here, love your twitter page 🙂

  • michaelmac43

    Interesting discussion! I read somewhere that when a particular royal (can'rt recall which one), is doing the "meet the people" thing, he / she often asks "what are you busy with right now?" The answer might reveal a passion in a confident person; or it could be mundane.
    Your version is a definite improvement on that, John!

  • Love it. Snappier than an elevator pitch.

    "I'm a marketing consultant and I write a blog about awesome people who run their own business.

  • That's a good one, Lucy! Makes me want to read the blog.

  • Now I'm intrigued!

  • Excellent! That's a party conversation opener if I ever heard one.

  • Nice. I would simplify very slightly to "I'm a creativity coach and I run gentle retreats for busy women who need a breathing space." Just reads a little more smoothly

  • Can be very effective to open with the 'problem' or pain

  • Stephanie

    John - fabulous work you're doing (we met at the Scanners Retreat in Corfu, Greece)!  My 3-second answer:  I'm a career counselor, color & wardrobe consultant, and I design workshops.

  • Michi Mathias

    What a good idea!  I always struggle with this, partly because I don't do anything full-time any more.  But I could say, for things that earn even a bit of money:

    I'm a fiddle player who also makes vegetarian sushi.
    I'm a wax carver who does building work sometimes.
    I teach banjo and fiddle, and also work in a cafe occasionally...  

  • Kelly

    I am a blogger and a newly retired adventurer.

  • Leigh4255

    I'm a writer and I blog about my mental health issues enthusiastically on the side!

  • Brilliant Lucy. Point me to your blog! I run a Russian legal support service and I edit psychometric testing books. Will you write about me?  🙂 

  • Jem Fox

    Nothing to be embarrased about there Cillabella - I like the sound of creative workshops in the French countryside!

  • Hello Heidi, here it is http://inspiringbiz.wordpress.com/ Your business sounds intriguing and I'm always looking for new people to interview. Send me your contact details via http://inspiringbiz.wordpress.com/contact/ and I can find out more?

  • Author, speaker & I help real-world business owners explode their profits online.

  • Bloody hell, there are some difficult one's to follow here! "I run my own event company; in Thailand, and will help to produce a cookery series; in Thailand, with Jamie Oliver".

    Wow, that was scary, I've only ever said that behind closed doors! 🙂

  • I'm a graphic / web designer, in an all girl 60s dance troupe and studying sculpture 🙂

  • goldtopgirl

    mmm, maybe *making* sculpture would be better; still used to the idea of thinking of myself as a (whisper) artist 😀