How to Explain Your Engineer Job to Your Non-Engineer Friends

“So… what do you do?”


Can you explain your engineer job to your common friends?

There will come days of your social life that a person you are acquainted with asks, “So what do you do?” You can’t simply say, “I’m an engineer and I do engineering.” You are torn on how to explain specifically all the technicalities of your engineering job, worried that the other end will never understand your jargons. But there’s actually an easy way to do this, an approach that will do both parties good.


How to Explain Your Engineer Job (Source: Tumblr)

To get the message across, there is what we call “inverse explanation,” which is pretty much its name itself.

The key in explaining what you do with others is to be able to get the jargons out and tell it as if you are talking to a 5-year-old. But you don’t have to talk like a 5-year-old, just be able to shred out the technical stuff out of your job so the kid will be able to understand. You will need to explain how you go around your office or site by stating an overview rather than the details, because sweating into the details might get your non-engineer friend or acquaintance so confused. And you will just waste a lot of saliva, which is not a win-win.


How to Explain Your Engineer Job (Source: Mount Rant More)

But it’s a different case when you are tasked to explain a certain engineering concept, say an equipment , to businessman in a meeting. The “talk to a 5-year-old” style may or may not work, but it’s safer that you can walk through the equipment by making it as fun as possible using relevant concepts.

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How to Explain Your Engineer Job (Source: Medium)

It can also be that you begin with the results or outputs of your job and explain through the process backwards. Some do not understand the process when it’s said from start to end – the person you are talking to will have a hard time grasping what will be next. He or she will be constantly waiting when your job story will end, so going backwards is better.

It can be likened to climbing a mountain: easier when you go down than climb up. The fun is always at the top going down because one already saw the view.


“This is what I do.” Source: Blogspot

This is how “inverse explanation” works, by explaining to them a technical part of your job by doing the opposite of what they are expecting.

Too bad that there isn’t an exact formula in explaining what your job is like, as in some contexts this might not work. But this approach is most likely to be effective – just talk to 5-year-olds more about what you do for practice.

Maryam Khalid

Mechanical engineer living in Dubai. Blogger, writer and tech nerd. Love Dubai, love earth, love social good stuff. Follow me on Twitter @maryamkhalid95

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How to Explain Your Engineer Job to Your Non-Engineer Friends

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