How to Ask Someone About Their Profession

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
Expressions for Asking to Know What Someone’s Profession Is

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
Expressions for Asking to Know How Someone’s Job Is

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
Expressions for Asking to Know Why Someone Has Chosen This Career

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
Expressions for Asking to Know How Someone Got This Job

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.

5) Maintain a polite voice tone and body language. Politeness is an essential feature of a good conversation.

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!

Keep practicing!

Happy Learning!

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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