How to answer the world's most dreaded question

Hey, friends.

Hooboy, my October tour for #thehumanjukeboxproject is all the sudden just one week away. And I actually seem to have everything under control, more or less. If you're going to be in Philadelphia on October 10 or Chicago on October 16, you are personally and officially invited to come hang out.

And *before* that, I am singing at a charity concert at Factory Berlin tomorrow, and shooting my first big-scale, I-even-have-a-hair-and-make-up-girl music video on Sunday. Creation, baby! Lots and lots of creation.

I was at a techie event a couple months ago and did some casual, networky chatting before the speaker started. I was telling this potential client/person about my content strategy work withThe Dots Creative, and we were definitely vibing on a business level. And then he asked me that question.
 

So, what's your background?

also known as

Tell us about yourself.

Oh, God. That question. I got irrationally defensive, immediately, as we almost always do. Paraphrased, I think I said something like this:

"Content." (laughs nervously) "My background is content. I got my start in the tech world in SF, and come from a social media background. I worked in startup PR before that. I help some clients on full marketing strategy, including packaging and concepting. With other clients, it's a hit-man, one-off straight copywriting thing. I kind of like to work in the middle, messing around with in-app copy and doing like, UX for words. Uhh, and... Bachelors in English Lit. And I actually have a Masters in Jazz Performance. Like, for singing. And a lot of people try to corner me and ask what on earth I'm doing in marketing with a masters in jazz, but I always tell them that marketing and music are pretty similar when it comes down to it. It's all just performing for your users at the end of the day, isn't it? Performing for an audience, and evaluating and tweaking for engagement. So, content. I'm a content person."

I gasped, coming up for air.

"That's the best answer I've heard in a while," he said. "Here's my card. We may need you down the line."

A few days later, I was musing on our meeting and tried to figure out why on earth he would have been impressed by my rambling. While I don't pretend to have the exact answer, I have started to develop a theory.

When asked what you do, a lot of us start from the beginning and work up to present day. Sometimes, we don't even get that far.
 

I hear a lot of recent graduates / college kids start with, "Well, I'm from San Diego originally, and...."

I hear a lot of people with 3-10 years of experience start with, "Well, I got my Bachelors in X, and then my first internship was in..."
 

This is the wrong approach. Think about the way a resume is written: in reverse chronological order. Your resume may be lousy, but at least it starts with the most relevant experience first.

Scroll up and read my rambling answer again. While it is by no means perfect, you can use it as a bit of a template as far as the timeline is concerned. It looks like this:
 

"Here's who I am today."
"Here's the general theme of my career."
"Here's a couple things I've done that I find interesting."
"Here are my official resume qualifications, like my degree."
"Here's how it all ties together in my mind."
"Here's who I am today."

 

So, the next time someone asks you that question, take a deep breath. Don't start from the back shelf. Start from the now.

Let me know the next time it happens to you. As always, I'll be here for the virtual high-fives.

Hugs from Berlin,

x Alexa
@alexashoen