Are you working? Do you have a job? Do you know how to talk about your job in English?
In the following guide, I want to show you what to say and how to say it when talking about your job.
You may be required to talk about your job at a party or a social event. But you may also have to talk about your job if you are changing from one company to another and having interviews.
In any situation, if you are working you should be able to express yourself in English when talking about your job.
Let’s dive right in.
Questions about Work
In a social setting — at a party or over dinner — someone may ask you about your job.
They could use one of the following questions:
- What do you do?
- What do you do for a living?
- What is your job?
- What line of work are you in?
All of these questions mean the same thing — what is your job?
The first question is probably the most universal question that people ask when talking about work and jobs.
Let’s look at how to answer these questions and provide more information about your job.
I’m a …
So what to say?
Well, you just say the name of your job.
- I’m a teacher
- I’m an engineer
- I’m a website designer
- I’m a bus driver
- I’m a project manager
- I’m a farmer
Whatever your job is, you just say the name of it as in the examples above.
I work for a …
Another way you could answer the question — what do you do? — is to say the kind of place where you work.
This may not tell the other person what your job is, but they can get a clearer picture of what kind of work you are in.
- I work for a community college
- I work for an online English company
- I work for a training company
- I work for the local council
- I work for myself
So if I were to say the first answer — I work for a community college — the other person might think I am a teacher, or maybe an assistant, or doing some administration work in the college.
But they would understand that I am working in a place of education.
If I said I work for the local council, they would realise that I am a government employee — but I could have any kind of job.
And finally, if I said I work for myself, then they would know I am self-employed and don’t work in a company or for anyone else. I am independent.
I work in…
With this phrase, you can talk about two different things about your work.
- The fields of work you are in
- The department in your company you work in
So if you were talking about the field of work you are in, you could say one of the following:
- I work in advertising
- I work in sales
- I work in agriculture
- I work in the fashion industry
- I work in the tech industry
The field is the general area of work that you are in. You are usually trained or educated to work in this field.
But you can also use this phrase to talk about the department where you work:
- I work in the sales department in a car company
- I work in the marketing department of a cosmetics company
- I work in the design department of a sports company
When using the phrase this way, you usually have to say what type of company it is.
Sometimes, people just use a more simple expression:
- I’m in sales
- I’m in marketing
- I’m in design
- I’m in education
This is the same meaning as saying I work in but in shorter form.
Combine All Phrases
We can combine all the above phrases and give more information.
- I’m a salesman — I work in the sales department for a local computer company.
- I’m a teacher — I work for a high school.
- I’m a designer — I’m in the design department in an advertising company
You can combine all of the phrases and give the listener more information about what your job is and what kind of company you work for.
You can say what your job is and the kind of company where you work:
- I’m a software engineer at a website company
- I’m a salesman in a mineral water company
- I’m a customer support clerk at a supermarket
Now You Try!
Use all of the phrases we looked at above and try to talk about what you do for a living.
Use these phrases:
I’m a _______
I work for a ________
I work in ________
I work in the ______ department in a ________ company
Where Do You Work?
You can also give information about the company where you work — or the kind of company where you work.
If you work for a company that is well known in the world — or in your area or country — then you can say the name of the company.
- I work for Facebook
- I work for the BBC
- I work for Google
- I work for Hoover
- I work for Coca-Cola
But if you work for a relatively unknown company, then you can use one of the following phrases:
I work for a company which/that ___________
I work for a local company which/that ________
I work for a national company which/that _______
I work for an international company which/that ________
So, for example, you might say:
- I work for a company that makes electrical goods
- I work for a local company which services fire alarms
- I work for a national company that rents cars to the public
- I work for an international company that supplies internet advertising
Try using one of these phrases to talk about your own company.
What are your Job Responsibilities?
As the conversation goes on with the other person, you may need to give them more information about your job and what you do.
The first phrase you can use is this:
So it could be:
- I teach maths in the local high school
- I write advertising copy for the big magazine publisher in the city
- I sell cars from the local Ford dealership in town
- I cook food at the hospital
- I design websites
- I take photographs
- I write website content
- I look after animals in the local animal shelter
One very useful verb when talking about creative jobs is make.
You could say:
- I make jewellery for a small shop in town
- I make card designs for a card company
- I make clothes for a local boutique shop
- I make furniture in a small furniture company
Another useful phrase is this:
I do (noun-phrase)
You can use this phrase like this:
- I do marketing for a hair products company
- I do project management for a big construction company
Other Ways for You to Express your Responsibilities in your Job
- I have to…
- I manage…
- I lead…
- I take care of…
- I organise…
- I’m responsible for…
- Most of my time is spent…
So, for example, you might say:
I’m a marketing manager. I have to do the marketing for the company. I’m responsible for all the social media accounts we have and all the press releases. Most of my time is spent writing articles and blog posts.
Now You Try!
Use the above phrases to talk about your job responsibilities and what you do.
Do You Like Your Job?
People might ask you if you like what you do for a living.
Let’s look at the most common topic people talk about when describing their likes and dislikes about the job.
- The money is great!
- The money is pretty good
- The money is not very good at all
- The pay is terrible
- I wish the money were better, but what can you do?
- I get paid very well
- I am on a pittance! (very low salary)
- I earn a lot of money
- I’m paid an average salary
And in most jobs, we have to work with others. We can talk about the things we like and dislike about the people we work with.
- I work with some great people
- I love the team I am working in
- We are like one big family
- I get on really well with all my colleagues
- My colleagues/co-workers are great
- All the people I work with are good
Words Used to Describe the Work You Do
People often use a wide range of words to talk about their job.
Let’s take a look
- Soul destroying
Using a Positive and a Negative Word to Describe your Job
When talking about their job, people often use a positive word followed by a negative word — or vice versa — to give an accurate picture of how they feel about it.
Here are some examples to show you what I mean:
- The money is great, but it is a lot of pressure
- I like the people I work with, but the money is not that great
- I like the job—it is very satisfying—but the management is not very good
- The people I work with are so friendly and supportive, but the job itself is very stressful
- I feel like it’s a bit of a dead-end job at times, but it can be a lot of fun
- The customers are so demanding, but the management can be very motivating
- Most of the time it is quite boring, then at certain times of the year it gets very busy
Now You Try!
Take a positive and a negative word from the list above and make a sentence to describe how you feel about your job.
What Time Do You Start Work?
People might ask you one of the following questions:
- What time do you start work?
- What time do you finish work?
- When do you stop work?
They just want to know what time you begin, and what time you stop working. People may be curious about your work times.
You can say:
- I start work at nine
- I start work at eight-thirty
- I have to be at work at nine
- I get to work at eight-thirty
- I finish work at five
- I stop work at five-thirty
You might also hear people ask these questions:
- What time do you get off work?
- What time do you get off?
These both mean the same thing: What time do you finish work?
Do You Have To Do Shifts In Your Job?
Many jobs require people to do shifts. These are special times when workers are needed to continue working. Some places require people to work at any time of the day or night — for example, doctors, nurses, police and emergency staff.
If you do shifts, then you may start work early in the morning, in the afternoon or the evening.
You can express the times you start work like this:
- I work day shifts/ afternoon shifts / late shifts or night shifts
- I’m on days / afternoons / nights
Do You Have To Do Overtime In Your Job?
Some jobs require their staff to do overtime. This is where the staff stay at work after working hours and do extra time.
So they might finish work at five pm but stay until seven pm because they need to be there.
Overtime can be paid or unpaid — it depends on the company policy.
People might ask you the following questions:
- Do you have to do overtime in your job?
- Do you have much overtime this week?
- Are you doing overtime this evening?
Sometimes people refer to overtime as OT.
- Are you doing OT tonight?
You can reply by saying:
- I have to do so much overtime in my job
- I have to do OT every week
- I do OT most days — and I don’t get paid for it!
- I have to do OT sometimes but it’s okay as we get paid pretty well for it
Do You Get Sick Leave In Your Job?
Sick leave is when you take time off work and still get paid for it.
People might ask you:
- Do you get sick leave?
- Is there sick leave in your job?
If you are sick and want to take time off work, you can say:
- I called in sick this week
- I am calling in sick today
Sometimes people ‘pull a sickie’ — this means that they are not really sick, but just want to take a day off.
- I pulled a sickie yesterday!
Do You Get Annual Leave In Your Job?
Annual leave is when you are allowed to take a day or more off work and still get paid.
Some companies give as much as four weeks of annual leave to their staff every year. The staff can use these days to go on holiday, travel and take a vacation.
They might take other days off just to have a rest or attend to some personal business.
When talking about annual leave — or wanting to take some time off work — we can say:
- I really need a holiday
- I need some time out
- I want to take some annual leave
- I am exhausted — I think I will book some days off
- I’ve been working like a dog — I deserve a break!
- I’ve been working my ass off lately — I think I need some time out
When we say working like a dog — we mean working very hard.
And when we say working our ass off — it also means working very hard.
Are You Self-Employed?
To be self-employed means that you are working for yourself — not a company.
You don’t have a boss and you don’t answer to anyone. Only you.
Jobs that self-employed people do include:
- Any skilled trade worker — carpenter, electrician, bricklayer, construction worker
But also the following:
- Graphic designer
- Make-up artist
- Personal trainer
If you are self-employed, you can simply say:
- I am self-employed
- I work for myself
- I am my own boss
Are You Working Right Now?
Maybe you don’t have a job. Maybe you are looking for a job. Maybe you have just graduated and want to have a rest for a short time before starting your job search.
You can say the following:
- I’m not working right now
- I’m between jobs at the moment
- I’ve just finished college and I need some time out
- I have just graduated and I am looking for a job now
- I’m taking some time out to be with my family
- I’m taking some time off to help my mother as she is getting old
- I’m taking some time out to sell my house
If you are working I think many of these phrases will be useful to you when talking about your job.
Or if you are looking for a job, they will be useful to you in the future.
Try to spend a little time each day going over the phrases. Make your own sentences and phrases using the prompts provided to help you express yourself when talking about your job and working life.
Good luck — and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!