How to nail ‘So what do you do’? Getting your origin story right.


People always ask this question: at a networking event, even strangers in lifts and your mum’s friends! Hopefully not your boss.

Often we launch into a potted history, even a mini autobiography, a biopic (still waiting for that phone call from Hollywood). It never feels right, always feels too long and sadly doesn’t feel compelling enough. At the other end of this ‘highlight reel ramble’ is the elevator pitch. The elevator pitch can feel mechanistic and contrived.

In trying to answer the question a fatal mistake is to mix 3 threads. We try to pack everything in.

  • A time line–This is a timeline of your professional life
  • A case study–the work you have done with clients and
  • A story of some sort.

The first two, a timeline and case study work best in a written format. So in a proposal, on a website or a pitch document. That way you are not short changing yourself or your audience. Yet you are using the right medium. Attempting this orally will cause your audience’s eyes to glaze over.

A well thought through story can work both orally and in a written format. This is your super hero moment. Just like every superhero has an origin story so do you. But in business the two anchors for your ‘origin – so what do you do’ story should be insight and impact.

The moment of insight (s) that propelled you into this career trajectory and the impact that has had. That is the most compelling way to answer ‘So what do you do?”

The graphic design company Canva is an example in point:  ‘The idea for Canva came about when Melanie Perkins was teaching graphic design programs at university and found students struggled to learn the basics’. (Insight). ‘Partnering with co-founder Cliff Obrecht, the pair launched Fusion Books, an online design tool that made it easy for students and teachers to create their own yearbooks’. (Impact).

The story then tells of their journey, initially into school year books and later recognising that the technology had broader applications. Today Canva is an Australian unicorn startup valued at over $1 billion.

How are you going to use insight and impact to tell your story?

Please share I love hearing from you.

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