Here’s the best icebreaker I’ve heard (and have since used quite a lot when hosting networking and professional development events).
How would you say what you do for work without using your job title or common terms?
For instance, if you work as a Bookkeeper, you couldn’t say that you were a Bookkeeper.
Nor could you say that you work at an Accounting firm, or that you help businesses with their financial reporting.
When you strip away all the jargon that people normally use, you’re left with quite a curious and reflective question:
What do I actually do for work?
As a Bookkeeper, it could be that you check hundreds of records on bank statements and ensure they align with records in Xero.
Or maybe you work in Sales. You could say that your job is to call 300 people per day with the aim of getting 10 YESes (or 290 NOs).
Or let’s say you’re a Fitness Instructor, and what you actually do for work is pump people up over 30-minute sessions several times a day.
This is a great icebreaker in a group setting because it challenges people’s perspectives of their careers in a fun and interesting way (and there’s always a few responses that get a laugh).
But there are more reasons why this question is so powerful to answer for yourself.
- It helps you to appreciate your underlying value.
Generic terms like “Bookkeeper” do not fully convey the value you provide.
While all Bookkeepers would receive similar training and perform similar duties, the actual tasks that any Bookkeeper does can vary quite a bit.
And if you’re not working in a traditionally-defined role, then this question becomes even more helpful to reflect on the value that you actually provide.
2. It can segment your work into things you want to be doing and not want to be doing.
When you reflect on what you do on a day-to-day basis, you will better understand if you’re doing what you want to be doing.
I know this may sound like common sense, but we are all prone to glamourising certain roles because of their names (think “rocket scientist” or “marine biologist” or “zookeeper”).
When you strip away the allure of a role and understand what it actually involves, you can make far better decisions about what you want to be doing over your career.
3. It can uncover gaps in your skillset.
Coming back to the Bookkeeper example, your day-to-day work may involve a lot of data entry and very little management of others.
But if you’re aspiring to be a manager in your organisation, then this question can help you realise that you need to be doing more leadership activities.
4. It helps you to communicate your value more effectively.
The further you progress in your career, the more specialty skills and expertise you will gain.
The sooner you can identify your specialty skills – or at least identify what makes you really valuable – the more opportunities you’ll be able to create and take advantage of.
5. It can identify other jobs or professions where your skillset is useful.
If you’re labelling yourself with a generic term (like “Bookkeeper”), you may be closing yourself off to opportunities that go beyond this general definition.
For example, you may not see yourself working in the Engineering space if you’ve trained as a Bookkeeper, but this doesn’t mean your skills within Bookkeeping aren’t valued by other companies or departments that don’t specialise in Bookkeeping.
The more you can define and communicate your value around your skills and expertise, the more you’ll expand your potential career paths.
So, how would you describe what you do for work without using your job title or common terms?
Thanks for reading to the end of this article!
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