We frequently meet new people either in a social or professional setting, and we need to get to know each other to build a good network. While talking to someone you just met or you already know, one of the most common topics you can discuss is their professional life.
If you wonder how to ask someone about their job or work in English, this post is for you. I’ll share some Polite English expressions and tips to ask someone what job they do and how their jobs are.
“What line of work are you in?” and “What do you do for a living?” are the two common questions you can ask someone to know about their job. You can also ask, “What excites you most about your job?” and “What is the culture like at your office?” to know about their job nature and work environment.
Asking to Know What Someone’s Profession Is
The best practice for asking someone about their job is using open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are usually WH questions that can allow someone to talk about something in detail, providing some specific information.
Some people are not at all comfortable talking about professional life. So make sure you create a condition to ask them about their occupation.
Remember! Depending on the setting (formal/informal), your choice of words, tone, and body language may vary. When in a casual environment, you can pose some direct questions, but still, it may sound impolite to some people.
Here, in this table, I present some expressions that you can use to ask someone about what job they do.
|What do you do?||Informal/Direct|
|What do you do for a living?||Formal/Direct|
|What has your career path been?||Formal/Indirect|
|What kind of job do you do?||Formal/Direct|
|What line of a profession are you in?||Formal/Direct|
|What are you?||Informal/Too direct|
|What line of profession are you in?||Informal/Direct|
|What is your profession?||Informal/Direct|
|What is your occupation?||Informal/Direct|
|Where do you work?||Semi-formal/Indirect|
|What are your long-term career goals?||Formal/Indirect|
|What professional skills you’re currently working on?||Formal/Indirect|
|What’s something you’re really into right now?||Formal/Indirect|
|What has been your biggest success factor?||Formal/Indirect|
|What are your next career steps?||Formal/Indirect|
|What professional associations are you a member of?||Formal/Indirect|
|How do you spend your regular day?||Formal/Indirect|
|I would be interested to hear about what you do.||Formal/Indirect|
|Can I ask what you do?||Formal/Indirect|
|May I ask where you currently work?||Formal/Indirect|
Asking to Know How Someone’s Job Is
To ask someone about how their job is, it’s better to start by asking about what job they do. You should NOT ask any Yes-No questions or Tag questions. Instead, pose open-ended questions and give them enough space to decide what they would share and not.
Be considerate about the setting and the relationship you have with the person. For example, if someone is your close friend, you can pose a direct question about their job life. However, you must be polite and never say anything that may offend them or make them uncomfortable talking.
The following table shows some expressions for asking about how someone’s job is.
|How long have you worked in this industry?||Formal/Direct|
|How do you manage your time for work?||Formal/Indirect|
|How does this company differ from others you’ve worked for?||Formal/Direct|
|How do you make decisions at work?||Formal/Direct|
|How has the industry changed since you started?||Formal/Indirect|
|How do you handle workplace disappointment?||Formal/Direct|
|How does your position fit within the organization?||Formal/Indirect|
|What is your favorite part of your job?||Formal/Indirect|
|Which branch do you work for?||Formal/Direct|
|What do you do at work daily?||Formal/Direct|
|What’s the best thing about your job?||Formal/Direct|
|How does your job affect your general lifestyle?||Formal/Direct|
|What excites you about your job?||Formal/Direct|
|What are the primary responsibilities of your position?||Formal/Direct|
|What is the culture like at your company?||Formal/Indirect|
|What organizational challenges have you faced?||Formal/Indirect|
|What kinds of decisions do you make?||Formal/Indirect|
|What do you like most about your work?||Formal/Direct|
|What is a typical day like for you at work?||Formal/Direct|
|What skills and abilities are essential to success in your industry?||Formal/Indirect|
|What are some common career paths in this field?||Formal/Direct|
|What personal attributes are essential to success in your field?||Formal/Indirect|
Asking to Know Why Someone Has Chosen This Career
If you are a fresh graduate or wondering which career you should pursue, you can talk to others about their professional life. As a result, you can get an idea about the industry, the present, and the future of the sector.
If you have a casual relationship with the person, you can try to know about their career in detail. However, consider how deep you can go if you have just met someone and want to talk about their job.
Here are some expressions to ask someone about why they are into this job.
|What brought you to this industry?||Formal/Direct|
|What was your first job?||Formal/Direct|
|How do you maintain a work-life balance?||Formal/Indirect|
|How did you become interested in this field?||Formal/Indirect|
|How did you begin your career?||Formal/Direct|
|Where do you see the industry going in the future?||Formal/Indirect|
|Why do you do your job?||Formal/Direct|
|What’s the best job decision you ever made?||Formal/Indirect|
Asking to Know How Someone Got This Job
If you are an aspiring candidate looking for a job, you can ask someone for job opportunities. You can ask them if there is any opening in their company. You can also talk about the procedure and required skills to get into the same company.
There are different ways you can ask someone to know how they have got the job. Here are some examples given in the table below.
|What hard skills should someone in your field have?||Formal/Indirect|
|What skills did you develop early in your career?||Formal/Direct|
|What soft skills should someone in your field have?||Formal/Indirect|
|What should I be doing to improve my career prospects?||Formal/Indirect|
|What skills have you found vital to your job?||Formal/Indirect|
|What is your greatest career strength?||Formal/Direct|
|How did you get to this position?||Formal/Direct|
|Which has been more valuable in your career, education, or experience?||Formal/Direct|
Tips for Asking Someone About Their Job
1) Start the conversation by greeting them properly to ensure a friendly environment to talk to them.
2) Ask Open-ended questions and avoid Yes-No questions to make them comfortable about deciding what to share and what not.
3) Don’t rush! Take enough time and give them time to build a rapport.
4) Don’t dive too deep (salary, other financial benefits, etc.). Not everyone wants to share personal things with others.
6) Show gratitude towards them, even if you haven’t got to know what you wanted. They deserve thanks, even
To some extent, asking someone about their job is a personal question. Many people may not like the question if your approach is not good. Therefore, your choice of words matters a lot.
I have discussed several expressions here. If you are still confused about asking someone for their help, you can comment below.
Thanks for reading!