10 Useful Ways to Say ‘What do you do for work?’ in Spanish

Picture this: you’re finally conversing with a native Spanish speaker and, well, you’re rocking it! You talk fluently about where you come from, your age and your hobbies … but then your interlocutor asks you ‘¿de qué la giras?’.

Err, what on earth does that mean?

Spoiler: it’s Mexican slang for ‘what do you do for work’ and part of this list of 10 ways to ask this very question in Spanish!

Let’s get into it!


‘What do you do for work’ is often expressed in the following ways –

1. ¿A qué te dedicas? = What do you do?

2. ¿En qué trabajas? = What do you do for work?

3. ¿Cuál es tu profesión? = What’s your profession?

1 A qué te dedicas – What do you do

The Spanish verb ‘dedicar’ means ‘to dedicate’ or ‘to devote’. So, the question ‘¿a qué te dedicas?’ literally translates as ‘what do you dedicate yourself to?’.

This is an extremely common way to inquire as to what exactly someone does for a living. It’s also a fairly broad question, so the person on the receiving end may end up telling you about their job, profession or even their life calling.

Nina – Mucho gusto. Cuéntame, ¿a qué te dedicas?

César – Tengo un podcast y soy activista ecológico, ¿y tú?

Nina – Me dedico a la enseñanza a niños con autismo.

Nina – Nice to meet you. Tell me, what do you do?

César – I have a podcast and I’m an ecological activist, what about you?

Nina – I teach children with autism.

If you want the formal – extra-respectful – version of this question, just say ‘a qué se dedica’

Soy contadora. Usted, ¿a qué se dedica, Sra. González?

I’m an accountant. And you? What’s do you do Mrs. González?

2 En qué trabajas / De qué trabajas – What do you do for work

‘Trabajar’ means ‘to work’, and in Spanish there are two very common questions using this verb: ‘¿en qué trabajas?’ and ‘de qué trabajas?’.

In everyday speech people use the two interchangeably as a way of asking ‘what do you do for work?’.

Alberto – ¿En qué trabajas ahora?

Danilo – En la misma empresa, pero como asesor. Y tú, ¿de qué trabajas?

Alberto – Dejé el mundo corporativo y abrí mi propio negocio.

Alberto – What do you do for work these days?

Danilo – I’m at the same company, but I work as a consultant. What do you do for work?

Alberto – I left the corporate world and opened my own business.

3 Dónde trabajas / Dónde estás trabajando – Where do you work?

If you want to get a bit more specific and ask where someone works, just say ‘¿dónde trabajas?’, or ‘dónde estás trabajando? (‘where are you working?’).

Reclutador – ¿Dónde trabajas actualmente?

Candidato – Trabajo en un laboratorio químico.

Recruiter – Where do you currently work?

Applicant – I work at a chemical laboratory.

¿En dónde estás trabajando, Alonso? ¡Siempre se me olvida el nombre de la empresa!

Where are you working, Alonso? I always forget the name of the company!

4 Cuál es tu profesión – What’s your profession

This one’s easy peasy!

To ask someone about their profession, just say ‘¿cuál es tu profesión?’.

Nadir – ¿Cuál es la profesión de tu novia?

Alessia – Es* endocrinóloga.

Nadir – What’s your girlfriend’s profession?

Alessia – She’s an endocrinologist.

Erika’s top tip – don’t forget to use the verb ‘ser when talking about your job or profession!

5 Cómo te ganas la vida – How do you earn a living

You may also hear, ‘¿Cómo te ganas la vida?’.

This one might sound a little bit intrusive as ‘ganarse la vida’ literally translates as ‘to earn a living’, so you’re kinda asking what someone does to earn money instead of focusing on their career goals, interests, or abilities.

Just be careful as it *might* come across as a bit crass.

Madre – Y, ¿cómo te ganas la vida?

Hija – ¡Mamá! ¡No preguntes eso!

Yerno – No hay problema. Soy abogado, señora.

Mother – And what do you do for a living?

Daughter – Mom! Don’t ask that!

Son-in-law – Not a problem. I’m a lawyer, ma’am.

6 Cuál es tu carrera – What’s your profession

In Spanish, ‘carrera’ can mean ‘major’ (as in ‘an academic field of specialization’) but it’s also a synonym of ‘career’ (i.e., your ‘profession’).

Uriel – ¿Cuál es tu carrera?

Miriam – Estudié economía pero actualmente tengo un negocio de logística.

Uriel – What’s your profession?

Miriam – I studied economics but nowadays I have a logistics company.

7 Qué hacen en tu empresa – What does your company do

This one’s a bit more specific: ‘¿qué hacen en tu empresa?’ means ‘what does your company do’.

It’s often a very useful follow up question!

Vivian – Soy especialista de tecnología en una empresa internacional.

Ben – ¿Y qué hacen en tu empresa?

Vivian – Es una compañía de análisis de datos.

Vivian – I’m a tech specialist in an international enterprise.

Ben – And what does your company do?

Vivian – It’s a data analysis company.

8 Cuál es tu rol en la empresa – What’s your role in the company

Another follow up question is ‘what’s your role in the company’.

Padre – ¡Felicidades por tu nuevo trabajo! Cuéntame, ¿cuál es tu rol en la empresa?

Hija – ¡Gracias, papá! Soy la nueva gerente de finanzas.

Father – Congratulations on your new job! Tell me, what’s your role in the company?

Daughter – Thanks, Dad! I’m the new finance manager.

9 En qué la giras (Mexican slang) – What do you do for work

Now for some Mexican slang (drum roll!) …

… I give you ‘en qué la giras’, which would literally translate as ‘what do you turn/spin it on’, but it´s actually just another way of saying, ‘What do you do for work?’.

Dos compañeros de la escuela se encuentran años después

Lalo – ¡Años sin verte, carnal! ¿En qué la giras estos días?

Ramiro – Abrí mi propio taller de robótica, ¿y tú en qué andas?

Two schoolmates meet years later

Lalo – Long time no see, bro! What are you up to these days?

Ramiro – I opened my own robotics workshop. What are you up to?

10 De qué la rolas (Mexican slang) – What do you do for work

Still in Mexico?

Don’t be surprised if someone asks you ‘de qué la rolas’ (literally ‘how do you roll’) if they want to find out what you do for a living.

Mexicana – ¿De qué la rolas?

Española – ¿Perdón*?

Mexicana – Sí, que a qué te dedicas …

Mexican – How do you roll?

Spanish – Excuse me*?

Mexican – Yes, what do you do for work …

*Erika’s top tip – perdón’ and ‘disculpe are the Spanish equivalents of ‘excuse me’ AND ‘sorry’.

Final thoughts

And there you have it, a pretty thorough list of all the different ways of asking ‘what do you do for work’ in Spanish.

Now you know how to keep that conversation going and find out more about your Spanish speaking friends!

Ready for more helpful Spanish tips? I recommend you head on over to our article on all the different ways to say me too’ in Spanish.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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