How to Ask Someone In a More Courteous Way “What Do You Do?”

Illustration by Jason Schneider.

Our expert: Etiquette consultant Nancy Mitchell, who formerly handled matters of protocol and special events at the Library of Congress.

“That’s networking 101: Don’t ask what somebody does. Instead, get into conversations and just get to know people. Talk about the event or the sponsoring organization, or say something like ‘Where’s home for you?’ Most people in Washington are from somewhere else. You open the door like that to start talking and showing interest in them, not necessarily their job. Once you’re into a conversation, it becomes easier to ask, and often you do want to know something about whether or not you’re in the same field.”

Read more advice, tips, and tricks from Washington natives in our Secrets of the City package.

This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.