“What do you do?”
It’s the go-to question when someone first meets you.
It’s the question you dread when you’re in-between jobs and haven’t been hired as soon as you want to be.
It’s the awkward question you fumble with when you’re venturing in a side hustle or trying to explain to a different generation that doesn’t quite understand how you make money online.
It’s the question moms downplay or dramatize when they’re cleaning up messes, making meals and driving kids around all day.
It took a long time for me to create an overarching purpose statement that summarizes who I am and what I do. I hope, through this post, you can avoid feeling embarrassed or apologetic about your own answers. And just MAYBE you’ll be able to INSPIRE someone with your answer.
When asked “What do you do?’ most people answer at one of two basic levels, and for years I was no different. My confidence rose the more I was able to succinctly articulate my value and what I’m about, regardless of my job description.
1 / The Task
[I do this…]
Here’s how I would have answered the “what do you do?” question at different points in my 20’s:
- I paint houses. (That lasted two weeks.)
- I check hotel rooms to make sure they’re clean. (that one lasted a year).
- I care for special needs children.
- I create the church bulletin, update databases and answer the phone.
2 / The Role
As I settled more into a position at work, I would identify as my role or job title, depending on the context it was asked.
- I’m a home caregiver for special needs foster children.
- I’m a housekeeping supervisor.
- I’m an assimilation coordinator.
- I’m a ministry leader.
- I’m a mom on maternity leave.
Your turn: How would you describe the tasks or your roles that fill your day?
3/ The Mission
[I help ____ do/find/solve/discover/experience ______]
When some of the tasks became monotonous or a title became an unhealthy, limited expression of my identity, I learned to reframe what I do as part of a greater mission.
Examples I’ve used:
- I’m a team support helping people find their next step in belonging and spiritual growth.
- I’m a housekeeping supervisor who helps young adults learn valuable life skills and work ethic. (That mission came clearly the day I supervised a new employee who had never vacuumed a day in his life.)
- I’m a mom who is nurturing and training a healthy, compassionate, loved child.
Ready to give it a go? What could you say around your greater mission if I asked you “What do you do?”
4 / The Purpose
[…so that _________]
For years mine was “my purpose is to help encourage people through serving.”
While this felt enlightening at first, and a safe way not to exclude anyone, it eventually left me floundering. Who do I focus on when so much is vying for my time?
For a long time, I served and encouraged through helping friends move, managing data and editing articles — and genuinely enjoyed it. But at what point was it better to concentrate on my skill development?
When answering the question “What do you do?” starts losing some of its meaning, it’s time to delve into WHY and HOW you do what you do in this season:
- Why do you do what you do as a mom, business owner, leader, author, student, service provider?
- What’s the reason behind you helping others with your specific gifts or skills?
- What feeling or impact you want others to experience in your presence throughout the day?
This is part of your statement is the INTENTION behind what you do and how you do it. What is the intended outcome for this mission you’re a part of?
Maybe your so that sounds like this:
- I’m a stay-at-home mom so that I can give my kids a sense of security and value they need during these formative years.
- I create and sell jewellery through Etsy so that I have the freedom to be available for my family and so that women can feel beautiful.
- I give toddlers a warm, fun, nurturing environment during the day so parents feel at ease going back to work after maternity leave.
Your turn! What’s YOUR “so that…”?
5 / The Calling
Dig a little deeper and you can uncover why YOU are the one to carry out your
That matters. Why? Because it’s your invitation to accept. No one else can own the divine assignment for you. No one else can contribute or create quite the way you can.
This is the part of the statement you might not include in an everyday introduction. But it’s certainly the part you can add when you’re the introvert tired of small talk and you want to bring some meaningful depth to a conversation. It’s also a way you can explain the heart of what you do to a client who’s considering signing on for your services.
Let’s explore what the statements above might sound like with a calling context for some of my peers:
- I’m a stay-at-home mom SO THAT I can give my kids a sense of security and value they need during these formative years. I’m committed to this for the season BECAUSE these children are my treasures and this is the most important thing I can do in these few years.
- I create and sell jewellery through Etsy SO THAT I have the freedom to be available for my family and SO THAT women can feel beautiful. I do this BECAUSE I not only love creating beautiful jewellery but I love seeing women’s confidence shine when something simple helps them feel beautiful.
- I give toddlers a warm, fun, nurturing environment during the day SO THAT parents feel at ease going back to work after maternity leave. I offer care in my home BECAUSE I remember how scared and stressed I was having to find someone I trust to care for my babies when I had to go back to work.
The good news about creating your purpose statement, is that it doesn’t have to be limited to just one statement.
You can have variations depending on the person you’re talking to or context of the question. So if you’re prone to overthinking or perfectionism, try out a few variations and see which ones feel like they’re true to your heart and capture the essence of what you’re about.