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4 Words Impacting Your Career Growth & Development

Today I want to talk about four words that, when strung together, they form a question—one of the most stressful questions we answer as professionals.

So, what are those four words? They are…


"What Do You Do?"

Proud woman thinking about her career story

If you think about it, all of us feel a bit startled when someone asks us this question. It's because we know that we're being judged on our answer.

The response we give is going to be evaluated up in their head. They're going to think about what we're saying, and based on what they know or don't know about us, and about whatever it is we say that we do, they're going to form an opinion. So, answering this question in a way that we feel is impressive becomes a big priority.

We Feel A Need To Impress Our Peers

Friends discussing their career paths

This is exactly why so many people are struggling to have the career growth that they want. We get so wrapped up in this professional identity, this need to answer this question, "What do you do?" in a way that impresses others. We subconsciously make choices to reinforce that without first stepping back and asking ourselves:

  • "Is this right for me?"
  • "Is this what I need right now?"
  • "Is this going to serve my career"
  • "Is this going to impress me?"

I know this from firsthand experience. I graduated from college in a recession and I was told to go out there and just get a good job. And I fell prey to the first job that came along. I could say to everybody, "I have a job," right? And over the course of a decade I built my career, constantly strived to get promotions and get a better job. Something that would really impress other people.

My Breaking Point

Woman stressed about her job

I was always being told, "Just keep doing it J.T. because you know, once you get up there and you make it, you'll be happy." So at 33 years old, I had a very high, six-figure income. I was running a huge department of a company. I was a woman, breaking the glass ceiling. I had a company car. I had all sorts of perks and benefits.

But you know what?

I also had a new husband that I never saw. I had a house that I was never in. I was completely out of touch with my friends and my family. I still remember the time there was a note on my desk that I found that said, "Call your mom, it's urgent." It was dated a week old from my assistant.

How I Stopped Trying To Impress Other People With My Career

career quote from JT O'Donnell

I was completely out of touch, but still on this treadmill of, "But everyone's really impressed with me." And so when I left corporate America and decided to become a career coach, I said, "I'm going to figure this out."

I didn't want to spend the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years of my life trying to impress other people and be miserable. And that was the catapult for me. To become a career coach. That, and the fact that I realized nobody was teaching this stuff in school.

Nobody was talking about how to define career satisfaction and build a career that played to my strengths, my values, and my needs so that I could feel happy and fulfilled. You're just left to figure that out. And we shouldn't have to be. We should be taught these things, but we weren't.

That's what actually drove me to do this. And that's why I'm here today, many years later.

Are YOU Trying Too Hard To Impress Others?

Woman thinking about her career story

So, my challenge for you is to ask yourself, when you answer that question, "What do you do?" what's your response? I want you to think about that answer.

And, I also want you to ask yourself, "How good do I feel when I give that answer?" Do you love to tell people what you do? Or do you dread being asked that question? Chances are, you'll be surprised by your answer.

P.S. Most people answer this question incorrectly. Want to find out how to answer it the right way?

Questions like these are why Work It Daily's career growth club is essential. I teach every professional from any level new tips and tricks to boost their career happiness. Whatever your goals may be—finding a new job, changing career directions, or getting promoted—you can learn the right approach with Work It Daily!