and what do you do?

When my wife is asked what I do for a living, she usually responds that it’s best to ask me directly. My initial response, in my mind, is: should I give the short or the long response? Depending on who is asking the question, the short response could be something like:

  • I help organizations adapt to the network era
  • I focus on new ways for connected organizations to work & learn
  • I connect working and learning, especially with digital technologies

The long response sounds more like a quick description of my services, some examples of my clients, and a few topics that I speak in public about.

Sometimes people’s eyes glaze over, because they were hoping for a response like, “I am a VP of Training at a large finance company”. That would be just too easy. So I have to gauge if the person REALLY wants to know or is just making casual conversation. Sometimes I say, “I am a blogger”. This may be the closest to the truth because this blog is where I work and learn out loud, and it is fairly often how my clients find out about me.

I know others have this difficulty as well. The world of work is changing, as are our relationships with organizations. Our language has not caught up yet. I have changed my descriptions on social media platforms many times over the past decade, trying to find common ground for understanding. Knowing that people just skim these kinds of things, it has to make sense to them, not me.

On Twitter, my current profile says: alternative business consultant & “a keen subversive of the last century’s management and education models”. It’s short, includes a quote from a reader of my blog, but may be not descriptive enough. My LinkedIn summary states that I help identify next practices for leadership, networked cooperation, knowledge-sharing, and innovation, in an increasingly complex world. It’s descriptive, but not does not say much about how I am unique.

Anyway, I am writing this post so that I have a reference for people who ask what I do, and really want to know.



4 Responses to “and what do you do?”

  1. Bill Ryan

    Thank you for framing a challenge I am facing as well, this is one area I did not know would be so difficult as began this new world of work – helped me re-focus my thoughts.

  2. Todd Hoskins

    Thank you for validating my experience too (even with my wife). The exploration and testing of language has often been awkward and frustrating. I’m very familiar with that blank look.

  3. Hugh Aitken

    Thank you Harold for outlining an issue that has been been the center of my focus for some time working in supporting individual and organizational learning. I have come to think of my role as that of a catalyst, dropping small pebbles in the pond and watching the ripples move outwards, sometimes being reinforced, sometimes being cancelled or disrupted.


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