Explaining What You Do

Explaining What You Do

Have you ever been out in public and people ask “what do you do?”

Of course you have. It’s one of the standard questions when meeting someone new.

Being a public servant it is always funny to answer that question. When growing up, my father worked for the IRS. So when people asked what my father did, I told them he worked for the IRS. They always said something negative and ran.

After grad school, I worked for Department of Homeland Security. And I faced the same problem. When people found out what I did, they either yelled at me about how DHS was evil or made some Jack Bauer (24) comment.

Since I was an IT auditor and IT program manager for my time at DHS, I was really just one of over 200,000 employees working on a range of DHS missions.

But it is always interesting to see the public’s reaction. What have you seen? Any funny experiences?

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Adriel Hampton

All I know is that public recognition of the difference between the offices of City Attorney and District Attorney is a lot lower than I’d like.

Heather Coleman

It can be a tough question to answer in a succinct, informative, yet interesting way. I usually throw something out there about strategic communications, but with the military audience they automatically think telecommunications. Then I have the uphill battle of bringing it back to marketing. I’m currently trying to work on my 30-second elevator speech to make it more enticing and more importantly find a way to put it back on the person and find out what they do, what their needs are so I can offer up some tips that might help them out.


I was talking to someone else today who works on the web and he was talking about how he struggled to tell what he did back to his parents and family. I think a lot of white-collar work is like that and a little amorphous vs tangible roles like construction worker, teacher, doctor, etc…