By Steve Moran

I love networking and I am really good at it. I have built Senior Living Foresight on networking. I have even been thinking about developing a “how-to network like a pro” online class.

But I am always looking for better ways.

When I meet someone, it typically goes like this:

“Hi, my name is Steve Moran.”

They usually respond with their name.

My next line has always been, “What do you do?” The conversation goes on from there.

Dumb, Boring, Ordinary, Intrusive

Several months ago I was talking to a non-work friend. I am not sure exactly how the conversation got here, but he began telling me how much he hated it when he met new people and they ask him what he does. His reasoning is that it is intrusive and that his profession does not really define who he is as a person.

I defended my question, largely because it is what I always did and I didn’t really have any ideas for doing it better. But it was like a trigger and I started paying more attention to articles on networking. Again and again, I found authors being critical of the question: mostly because it was boring and superficial. Here is one example in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Stop Asking “What Do You Do?” When Networking”. And the Harvard Business review can’t be wrong, can it?


The authors offered a number of alternative suggestions including:

    • What are your hobbies?
    • What charities do you support?
    • Where did you grow up?
    • Who is your favorite superhero?
    • What excites you right now?
    • What are you passionate about right now?
    • What’s the best thing that happened to you this year?

My Pick . . .

I really like, “What are you passionate about right now?” Lately when I would start to ask, what you do, I’d stop and ask instead, “What are you passionate about?” Expecting these high energy, high enthusiasm responses I was so pumped up about the idea that I got my OneDay app set up so I could ask the question and film the response for sharing it on Senior Living Foresight or LinkedIn.

Not A Chance

What I got was hesitation. “Passionate about what I like at work, home, or something else?” One person even said they thought it was kind of an intrusive question. I did get a fair number of good answers but none were like what I expected . . . what I was hoping for. So I never even got the video recorder out.

 That Question is Officially Retired . . . At Least For Now

I am not sure what comes next when I hit the SMASH conference in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll go back to “What do you do?” Or, here’s another question I ask people I already know: “What are you working on that is cool, interesting, or innovating?” This question seems to work pretty well.

Do you have a favorite conversation starter you would be willing to share?