Small talk is all the things you can talk about when you meet someone new. It’s easy to prepare, and if you do it effectively, it can be a great way to quickly know someone. And maybe start a successful professional relationship, too!
I’m your English coach Christina, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll learn American culture and business know-how to become confident in English.
Today, I’ll show you how to make small talk about you and your job. Let’s go!
Do you want to boost your vocabulary for everyday discussions! Next week, you will have access to a course that I made just for that: Successful Small Talk.
It covers all kinds of situations, professional settings or fun socializing. You’ll get tons of scripts you can use, cultural insights… And I even included helpful small talk planners, to help you fight your anxiety of speaking English, and achieve top-notch social skills! Sign up with the link below the video to get your invitation.
Making small talks about your job
Talking about your job is a great topic for you to prepare: you already know a lot about the subject, so it’s easier to keep the conversation flowing.
However, if you’re too specific, it might confuse your conversation partner. That’s why you can start off with your department or your field, very generally like:
“I work in the electricity sector”, or “I work in the marketing department for a chocolate company,” or just “I manage projects in a pharmaceutical company.”
If you want to go the extra-mile, you should also pair it with a simple description of what you actually do.
The word “Basically” is really useful for that, like this:
“I work in the marketing department for a chocolate company. Basically, I make people want to eat more chocolate.”
Sometimes your title will be difficult to translate or explain on the spot, and that’s why you should always prepare a quick one-line description of your job that includes your job title. Why don’t you take 5 minutes to do that after this episode?
Here’s an example:
I’m an actuary. Basically, I use statistics to figure out the cost of insuring someone, based on their past behavior.
American people tend to define themselves through their occupation in private settings as well; we’ve talked about that cultural difference in an earlier episode, remember?
In American culture, it’s also common to talk about money, or at least, about material success. Company income or number of clients, for instance.
It’s the sign of a materialistic way of life, and they want to celebrate your success in any way! Which means that in return, you should always try to put a positive spin on your situation. Don’t worry about being too hopeful or optimistic, we appreciate someone who has ambitious goals!
“What do you do?”
It’s the natural way to ask for someone’s occupation.
During small talk, you should always ask questions. That’s how you get to know the other person, obviously! After that, try to find in their answer the specific hook that allows you to ask other questions.
Some of them are universal, though. Such as “How long have you been doing that?”. Or better, “How did you get into that ?” Like, “How did you get into programming?”
There’s often an interesting story there, and lots of material for continuing the conversation!
Managing a full conversation
A full small talk conversation can feel like a ping pong game. You ask a question, the other person answers, and asks another question, then you reply, etc.
Always be the most positive you can be – focus on common ground, the things you have in common, and the things that feel the most exciting. That way, you can slowly go into more personal details and build a real connection. Don’t go too far, of course!
Let’s take a full example:
– Hi, I’m Marie. What do you do ?
– Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a data scientist for a big candy company. Basically, I try to find patterns in the company’s data to better sell candy.
– Oh, that sounds nice! And do you get to taste the candy as well?
– Yeah, that’s a nice perk, definitely. And you, what do you do?
– I’m a software developer. I make apps to develop mindfulness.
– Oh, that’s pretty cool! I have one on my phone, it really helped me concentrate.
– Oh really? Yeah, I like our products. It helped me get into meditation when I first started, two years ago.
– Oh, you do meditation? Me too!
And then you can share more personal stories!
Practice the expressions from this lesson by repeating after me, with the video!
Your turn now!
Tell me, what do you do?
Try to use the word “Basically” to explain or recap what’s behind your job description.
A good way you can find inspiration is by using social media like LinkedIn, to find the job description of one of your peers. This can get you started!
Write down your one-line introduction in the comments below!
Don’t forget, next week, I’m sending invitations for my course Successful Small Talk, which gives you tons of scripts you can use, cultural insights, and vocabulary to help you feel comfortable in everyday conversations.
Click here and sign up to get on the invitation list! You’ll get a special bonus later this week, and more your invitation next week!
Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week!
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