Why you should know how to describe what you do to a five-year-old

Describing what you do to a five-year-old means being able to distill your work down to its essence. When you can’t do this, it’s often a sign that you’ve lost touch with the core purpose of your work — and it’s only when we have a clear sense of purpose that we can live the life of our dreams.

How would you tell her what you do? (Photo by  Katie Moum )

How would you tell her what you do? (Photo by Katie Moum)

Short and sweet

Distilling what you want to say into brief and simple language is hard. Professional writers and editors all know that it’s much easier to “write long” than it is to be succinct. The more words we throw in, the easier it is to veil the fact that we don’t really know what we’re saying.

I’ll use myself as an example. I tell my six-year-old daughter, Ali, that my job is to tell women’s stories.

I could say, “I help women come up with a tagline that sums up what they do and what they stand for in the world. Then I rewrite their LinkedIn profiles and websites to reflect that story. I’m also getting into TV writing so I can shift how we tell women’s stories in popular culture.”

Here’s what Ali would hear: “Blah, blah, blah.”

The hard truth is that “blah blah blah” is often what our fellow adults hear when we talk about what we do. And it’s not because what we do is uninteresting, or unimportant — it’s because people need to digest the basic essence of what you do before they can (or want to) absorb the details.

The story of what’s possible

Another reason it’s so important to be able to explain what you do to a small child is that it helps implant in kids’ minds the breadth of things they can do when they grow up. I want my daughter to know what I do every day, and to know what my female friends do. In there somewhere, she can begin to navigate toward her future.

So. Imagine a five-year-old girl is standing in front of you.

Tell her: What do you do?

If you need help using fewer words to convey more about who you are, I can help. Let’s talk.