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How to Answer “What Do You Do?” When You Don’t Have a Job

A sign that says 'Awkward Moment'.

We all know that networking is important when looking for a job. However, it can be challenging (and sometimes downright awkward) when someone asks, “What do you do?” and you don’t have a job.

On Quora, a few readers chimed in with how they would answer this question if they were out of work. Here are a few of the helpful (yet tongue-in-cheek) responses that stood out to us:

From Venkatash Rao:

  • Convert to a networking opportunity: 'I am on the market. Know any good gigs for a [your profession here]'
  • Embellish the truth: 'I’ve got a couple of options brewing. Haven’t yet decided what to do.'
  • Vague it out: 'I’ve got a few gigs going on.' 
  • Deflect: 'Let’s not talk shop. Did you catch the game last night?'
  • Turn it around: 'Nothing interesting on my end, what’s going on with YOU? Still tied to a desk?'

From Gil Silberman:

"Where I live, San Francisco, it is perfectly understandable and acceptable not to be working for an employer at the moment, if ever. But what’s not so well accepted is to simply be doing nothing. If you don’t have a job then you can spend the time working on a project, or educating yourself, volunteering, building skills, starting your own company. You can even make up a name and build a website for whatever this thing is you are doing."

From Meenakshhi Mishra:

  • “Hi, I am so and so, Just enjoying life and relaxing for a change!”

Read the rest here.

Depending on where you are in the job search and how you’re networking, honesty is often the best policy: letting people know what you’re looking for can help them connect you to great opportunities. Additionally, we often undersell ourselves when we network: talk about the volunteering work you’re doing, projects you’re launching, or interesting books and ideas you’ve come across. There is a lot to share beyond the job search.

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by Allison Jones

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