100 alternatives to the question, “So, what do you do?”
Heading to a cocktail party, co-working space, tea at grandma’s Haus, (un)conference, world-shifting summit, or biz building immersion?
Chances are, you’re gonna be doing a fair amount of hustling, jamming & pro-active connecting. URLs will be flying. Business cards will be volleyed. You’ll wanna polish your pitch, and add a layer of high-gloss lacquer.
You’ll be curious about your new comrades, and hell’s bells — they’ll be curious about YOU.
But please. Good lord in heaven above. I beg of thee! Use “so whadda ya do?” sparingly. Just as a brain-tugging experiment: what would happen if it was your final question, instead of your first?
To kick off your next convo in supercharged style, revel in these non-sleazy networking prompts, inquisitive pressure-points, and relationship-tipping triggers.
When you lead with CURIOSITY — rather than convention — you’ll be STUNNED by the gems you unearth.
1 : What’s the most potent compliment you ever received?
2 : We’re talking ‘bout blog-crushes and Twitter-romances, over here. You got any secret Internet spouses? C’mon, spill it.
3 : Do you have a lucky charm or self-love token that you keep close, at all times? I’ve got a heart-shaped rose quartz crystal, on a silver chain. Pretty literal, but it works for me. How ’bout you?
4 : Who do you turn to for humble-pie, keep-it-real, tone-it-down reality-checks? Your momma? Your mentor? Your BFF?
5 : What does money represent, for you? Independence? Luxury? Energy? Power? Possibility?
6 : When have you been COMPLETELY wrong? How did you figure it out?
7 : I never how how to behave when I come in contact with homeless folks, out on the street. Give ’em a buck? Turn a blind eye? Donate directly to a shelter, and trust that the cash will flow to where it’s needed most? What’s your stance on street-peddling?
8 : If life was like a musical, and you could have a specific theme song or anthem blasting every time you step into a room, what would it be? (Mine would be “Can’t Keep It In” by Cat Stevens.)
9 : If you had to create a new job title — and the words that you currently use to describe yourself didn’t exist — what would you call yourself?
10 : Do you have a worst-case scenario, screw-it-all, burn-every-bridge Plan Z? FYI: I ever go missing, you’ll find me pouring Guinness for fishermen in an pub on the Aran Isles.
11 : Do you ever get performance anxiety, when you’re getting ready to pitch yourself, or jam with a super-elite client? What’s your bells-on, game-time, pre-show mantra?
12 : When you need to give feedback or criticism to a colleague, what’s your approach? The ol’ compliment-critique-compliment “feedback sandwich”? Or just straight-shootin’ facts — all killer, no filler?
13 : I’ve started using a Committed Impulse technique, where I say “I’M BACK!” — out loud — whenever I’m floating away from the present moment. How do you re-center yourself, when your mind is flickering in ten thousand directions?
14 : If you were sending out invites for a fanciful afternoon tea party, who would you invite? Could be anyone — alive, dead, fictional, or cartoon-sketched.
15 : I recently did the StrengthsFinder assessment, and I gotta say — I’m a little torn about the whole “personality profiling” thing. What’s your stance on talent assessments? Brilliant, bullshit, or somewhere in between?
16 : If you could choose one super-power — mind-reading, time-traveling or limitless energy — what would you pick?
17 : Have you ever fallen in love, at first sight? With a person? With an idea? With a vision? With a website?
18 : Damn, this coffee is fantastic. The blend actually reminds me of a fabulous little mom ‘n pop cafe, back home. It’s my secret hideout, when I need to escape and buckle down with my laptop and a cranberry scone. Do you have a Fortress of Solitude, back on your home turf?
19 : So, I’ve got this question percolating in my mind, and I’m asking everyone I meet. What’s your absolutely perfect day, from dawn till dusk?
20 : I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed by the deluge of info that’s being firehosed at us, today. Is there one nugget of brilliance that’s really resonating with you?
21 : Damn! The minute this event is over, I’m totally gonna revamp my bio, strip down my service packages, and do a pricing mega-boost. What’s the first thing you’re going to do, when you get back to your workspace?
22 : I’m one of those people who reads my horoscope every single day — pretending that it’s nonsense, but secretly DEVOTED to it. Are you a surreptitious star-charter, too?
23 : I don’t know about you, but I literally can’t focus unless I have my indie-electro-rock mix blasting at full volume. Do you have a go-to playlist, for slamming deadlines?
24 : You partnered up with a sweetheart, at the moment? How did you feel the very first time you laid eyes on him, or her?
25 : Don’t take this the wrong way, but you strike me as a woman who knows her way around a lingerie shop. I’m dying for a new bra. Any recommendations, or favorite boutiques?
26 : If you could take a pill and instantly know how to play any instrument, what would it be? (Autoharp, for me!)
27 : Not to be too morbid, but I’m curious: what d’you want etched onto your hypothetical tombstone?
28 : Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up, when you were five? Fifteen? Twenty? What’s the connective strand, in terms of where you are now?
29 : Be honest: what’s your opinion on emoticons? ;)
30 : I’ve got a really ferocious suspicion that rollerskates and hotpants are gonna be IN like FLYNN, this autumn. What’s your fall fashion prediction?
31 : When you catch yourself in the middle of a white lie, how do you pivot your message? Back-track and clarify? Just roll with it, to protect the listener?
32 : So I’ve recently started a dream journal. Do you have any super-vivid dreams, that keep recurring?
33 : How do you measure your own success? Do you set goals? Keep a set of metrics? Just gauge by how you feel?
34 : True fact: I recently realized that I’m slightly ambidextrous. D’you have any hidden talents?
35 : You look like a (wo)man of action. What’s your first-thing-in-the-morning routine?
36 : Have you ever been so terrified, you could taste metal in your mouth?
37 : Man, I’m really feeling the need to de-frag my mind for a few minutes. What’s your favorite mental vacation? I’ve got a lurid fascination with ’90s teen dramas, like My So-Called Life…how ’bout you?
38 : When you hit your income target for the year, how are you gonna celebrate? Take your entire family to a B&B? Hit the spa with your long-distance pen-pal? Treat yourself to a Tarot card reading?
39 : I have to tell you, I just love the way your voice sounds. Did you ever do any theater or radio?
40 : Wanna play some word assocation? I’ll start.
41 : Last week, I decided to remove all electronics from my bedroom, and I’m suddenly sleeping like a Queen. Have you made any micro-lifestyle-tweaks, that really shifted your world?
42 : Dude, these kinds of events really bring out the hermit in me. Oh, you too? Wanna grab some coconut water, sequester ourselves in a dark corner, and talk about our favorite Lady Gaga tracks for five minutes? Excellent.
43 : Have you ever read something so fucking brilliant, it made you sad, because you’d never get to read it again…for the first time?
44 : I recently learned how to make a heart in my coffee foam. It’s all in the wrist, man. What’s your favorite super-mundane-but-totally-lovely little ritual?
45 : What’s your opinion on facial hair? Be honest.
46 : Jeez, you are seriously well put together. Who’s your ultimate style icon? And what goes through your mind, as you curate your outfits?
47 : After today, I’m seriously thinking about doubling my hourly rate. I gotta admit — it terrifies me. How do you feel about your current price-point? You thinking about going double-or-nothing, too?
48 : What’s the biggest epiphany you’ve had over the last year, in terms of attracting your ideal clients?
49 : When you’re feeling scattered, how do you re-center and root into what needs to GET DONE, pronto?
50 : Do you have any smutty, private treats? Once a month or so, when I’m tanking up my car, I always grab one of those horrendous, sticky, machine-brewed gas station coffee drinks. Y’know, flavored with pumpkin-spice-amaretto-midnight-delight creamer. And then I drink it, alone, in my car. What’s your we-must-never-speak-of-this-again pleasure?
51 : Have you ever been so grateful for something, you felt like 40,000 thank you notes just wouldn’t cut it?
52 : What makes you supremely jealous? And how d’you deal with comparison-envy?
53 : It might be those cool specs you got on, but you strike me as a big reader. What’s the last book you read that really moved you?
54 : Sometimes, when I’m feeling dislodged and disjointed, I have a little mental pow-wow with my fantasy mentor, Oscar Wilde. Do you have any fantasy advisers?
55 : Have you ever been to a concert that shifted your entire slant on life?
56 : Tell me something about yourself that I’ll NEVER see in your official bio, or on your resume.
57 : Do you think of your clients as comrades, creative partners, customers, advocates, fans…or something else? How much high-contact, 1-on-1 time do you give ’em?
58 : How do you cope with unhappy clients? Are you a never-go-to-bed-angry type o’ gal, or a let-’em-fume-and-we’ll-unpack-it-all-tomorrow type of person?
59 : Opt-in squeeze pages: yay or nay?
60 : Where do you get your best ideas? I’m all about bubble bath epiphanies. Though hot-tubbing and long road trips work, too.
61 : I’ve been thinking a lot about pro-actively clearing space for magic, in my life & my biz. What’s one thing you’re ready to delegate (or just destroy), like, NOW?
62 : There are so many products & programs out there, and sometimes I have trouble filtering which ones I oughta dig into. What’s ONE investment you made, in your entrepreneurial empire, that truly paid off — in spades?
63 : When you’ve connected with someone online, and you really wanna pull the relationship offline, what’s your non-scuzzy pick-up line?
64 : What does “elegance” mean to you? How ’bout “efficiency”? “Enthusiasm”?
65 : Have you ever asked someone you barely knew for a BIG favor? How did it land?
66 : If you could have a mystical companion animal, like the witches in Ye Olden Days, what would yours be? (I’d totally go for a teacup-sized panda, or miniature fox.)
67 : Have you ever experimented with raw food, ditching wheat flour & sugar, or veganism? What feels right, for your body? When do you feel magnetically vibrant?
68 : How do you really feel about blogging — for serious? Love it? Loathe it? Does it feel like a creative outlet, or a marketing chore?
69 : Do you tend to trust people immediately — until proven otherwise — or do they have to earn your faith?
70 : I’m planning a mini media fast this summer. Have you ever dropped off-grid, for a week, or more? How did it feel?
71 : If you could be an Olympic athlete, a champion ballroom dancer, or a Broadway singer with lungs of solid gold, what would you choose?
72 : Are you an Inbox Zero kinda person, or do you let messages build up, and then crash through and delete / archive / file / forward / reply, in one fell swoop?
73 : Have you ever met an idol or celebrity, and felt stupendously starstruck? Did you manage to eke out a meek “hello”?
74 : I’m totally turned on by old-school snail mail thank you notes. What’s the classiest gift you’ve ever received, in the mail?
75 : Are you a group mind-meld mastermind, or do collaborative projects make your skin crawl?
76 : Do you believe that guilt is a wasted emotion? Or a lesson, trying to teach itself to you?
77 : What’s the prickliest piece of feedback you’ve ever had to swallow?
78 : Been thinking a lot about self-care, of late. If someone handed you $500 and said, “go nurture yourself,” what would you spend it on?
79 : Do you believe that every relationship is an energetic transaction? Do you think it’s possible to transcend beyond transactions?
80 : What’s a “brilliant” idea that you’ve had, for a project or business? One that you’ll never-ever actually do, but tickles your fancy, nonetheless?
81 : How do you reel in your ramble, when you’re babbling outta control?
82 : Is there a song, or poem, that ALWAYS makes you weep, without fail? (My tear-jerker is “Hallelujah,” by Leonard Cohen. ‘Specially when k.d. lang belts it out.)
83 : If you were gonna send a time capsule to your future self, what would it say? What would it contain?
84 : Do long, old-school sales pages make your eyes cross in disgust? Or are you a firm believer in heavy, info-loading conversion language?
85 : What’s the absolute WORST business advice you’ve ever received? Did you sense the ridiculousness immediately, or did you have to learn by trial ‘n error?
86 : A part of me wants to e-x-p-a-n-d my lil’ empire, with more minions and serfs and apprentices. And a (bigger) part of me wants to keep it clean & lean. A solo operation. What’s your take, on intelligent expansion? You got a master plan, for your universe?
87 : Earlier this year, I was mashing into maximum bandwidth, and having a spacious day to play was tricky to come by. How do you make space for downtime, when you’re teetering on the edge of burnout?
88 : I’ve been delegating my way to sanity, this year. What’s one thing you outsourced, that made a mega-impact in your quality of life? Laundry? Font formatting? PayPal invoicing?
89 : I’m parched for fresh visual stimulation. What are your gotta-see design magazines, blogs and books?
90 : I feel like I get hammered with pro bono requests all the live long day. How do you evaluate which freebie gigs to dive into, & which to pass on?
91 : That last presentation on communication really got my brain cranking. Have you ever had an experience where your meaning was COMPLETELY misinterpreted?
92 : If money, training, time, talent and the laws of physics were no object, what would you be doing, for a career?
93 : Girls with guns & firing ranges: sexy, or terrifying?
94 : What was your absolute WORST joe-job, ever? (Me? Cigarette salesgirl at a casino. Yep.)
95 : What’s one thing you DON’T know, for sure?
96 : If there was one band you could magically re-form & re-group for one last epic world tour, what would it be?
97 : Your hair is absolutely incredible. Give me your styling regime, in ten seconds or less. GO.
98 : Do you believe in “life balance,” or is striving for equilibrium a total buzzkill, for you?
99 : What did your most agonizing break-up — romantic, platonic or vocational — teach you?
…and my personal, all-time favorite:
100 : Who are you becoming?
Go get ’em, kiddos.