I always used to dread meeting new people. They always asked “what do you do?” And what I do (for work, naturally) has mostly been nebulous and boring and unglamorous.

When I worked in corporate systems, I was too young to be an interesting (read: rich) tech nerd. When I worked in management consulting, no one really knew what that meant, and neither did I. When I worked in internal audit, no one wanted to hear about it. (Let’s just say people like to complain about auditors.)

For much of my career I’ve had the same kind of job: an ill-defined amalgam of consultant, auditor, and regulatory examiner. When I met someone new, we would be inevitably get into conversations like this:

“Do you work in insurance?”

“No; not really.”

“Do you work in audit?”

“No; not really.”

“Do you work for the state?”

“No; not really.”

You would basically need a weeklong seminar in an absurdly dull hotel conference center to understand what we do at my company and why it is important. It is technical. It is dull. It involves financial solvency (yawn). It involves close reading of legislation that even the legislators probably don’t understand.

Recently, I figured out a better way to express what I do: I help regulators make sure insurance companies are doing what they are supposed to do. That simple, vague explanation seems to be the best one I have come up with yet. Insurance may be dull, but it has the benefit of being, well, hated by a lot of people. Everyone wants to make sure insurance companies they are customers of do what they are supposed to do.

I think the best answer to “what do you do?” is always “I help people.” Because if you don’t help people, then what purpose is there to anything you do.