How To Talk About Your Career

Can you talk about your career and what you do in English?

These phrases and vocabulary will help you answer the question “What do you do?” – and also help you have a more interesting conversation about your job and career.

Your Career Path

Your career path is your career journey – how you got to where you are now. So you can say something like:

“When I left University I went into …. manufacturing / programming, etc.”
“I started out in marketing, but then moved into sales.”
“I fell into teaching, really.” (fall into = started a career in something by accident)
I’ve been in engineering ever since I graduated.”

Career Change

A “job for life” is quite rare now. Most people can expect to have five or more jobs or even careers. Here are some ways to talk about career change.

“I decided to get out of … (banking) in 2010.”
“I changed career because I wanted to work part-time.”
“I wanted to move out of the corporate world.”

Career Achievements

It’s a good idea to mention your career successes on your CV, but you can also talk about them to give people a better picture of what you do.

“A highlight of my job was when I raised a lot of money for charity.”
“After a couple of years, I got a promotion and I was made head of the department.”
“I was involved with a really interesting project that …”
“I was accepted onto an MBA course, and I’ve never looked back.” (never looked back = continued to have success)

Career Transition

How do you talk about the times “in between” jobs? Here are some useful phrases to talk about career transition:

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I took a year out.”
“After my maternity leave, it took a while to get back into work.”
“I drifted from one job to another after school.” (drift = go from one place to another without real purpose)
“I’m in-between jobs at the moment.” (in-between = when you’re waiting for the next job)
“I’m in the middle of a career change.”

Explaining Your Job

How do you explain your job when people ask “What do you do?” Some people talk about an “elevator pitch” – a summary which is short enough to last the average “elevator” (or “lift”) time. In his talk “How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes“, American film producer Adam Leipzig suggests answering these questions:

1. Who are you
2. What do you do (What ONE thing do you love to do? Or, what one thing would you feel qualified to teach other people to do?)
3. Who do you do it for?
4. What do those people want or need?
5. How do they change as a result?

Here’s an example.
Person A: “So what do you do?”
Mark: “I help business owners focus 100% on serving their customers.”
Person A: “Really? That sounds interesting. How do you do that?”

… and then the conversation continues.

These were the answers that “Mark” gave to the five questions:
1. I’m Mark.
2. I help people solve technological problems with their websites.
3. I help small business owners and larger companies.
4. They need websites that work properly, look good and attract customers.
5. As a result, they can take care of their customers without worrying about the technology.

The most important and interesting part is your answer to question five. Try it for yourself to discover your life purpose. It might not be the job that you currently do!


How To Talk About Your Career

At intermediate level and above, you need to feel confident about continuing an English conversation. I can help you do this in my Real English Conversations program. Click below for the details!