I travel with my husband, Phil Cooke who speaks to large and diverse groups regularly. Whenever I accompany him, and I am not speaking or teaching myself, I am enviably asked, “and…what do you do?”   I know most inquirers are just curious but sometimes it’s the tone of the question that raises the hair on the back of my head. Most of the time I jokingly say, “I make sure my husband stays out of jail” or “what hour of the day are you referring to?”

For most women this question hits directly on their self worth. It doesn’t matter if you’re a women climbing the ladder in your career, changing directions, or are indeed achieving wonderful accomplishments, it hits a significant nerve and can feel demeaning.

So how do you handle this question?

1) Use grace and understand that most of the time it’s a question of curiosity so don’t get defensive. See this question as a time to practice your “elevator pitch” – that 2-3 minute concise monologue of passionate facts, goals and yes… achievements.

2) Have an intelligent answer. The question is going to be asked so be prepared. Keep redefining, reassessing, and freshening your answer as your goals change and grow so that your answer is interesting and compelling.

3) Finally, win friends and influence people by being witty. I often wish I could think fast on my feet. I am married to a man who does this flawlessly but it’s not my strength, I usually think of a great answer 5 minutes later. Consequently, I try and think ahead and prepare witty answers to predictable questions and keep them fun and spontaneous in their delivery.

So… what do you do?