How do you describe to others what you do? My recent career transition has led many acquaintances (and some family members) to ask, "so, what is it you do EXACTLY?" This ubiquitous cocktail party question, within a single sentence, determines whether the inquisitor is interested in continuing the conversation; or begins plotting their escape route out of the conversation.
As a creative professional, I find this extremely difficult to answer for new acquaintances. Over the years, I've answered in a variety ways; none of which I feel fully represent my craft:
- Founder and Startup Entrepreneur
- Web Developer and Graphic Designer
- New Media Marketer
- Business Analyst and Digital Strategist
- User Experience Architect
- Project Manager and Agile Product Owner
- Director of Portfolio Management
- (and many others...)
The answer I would rather offer doesn't seem to easy fit on that single line on the business card. What I really want to communicate is that I am a creator; an artist; a dreamer and visionary. One who makes the imagined realized. Somebody who not only has clear foresight for an intended outcome, but understands intimately the functional steps needed bring a concept to fruition.
I grew up as a musician; learning to play, perform, compose, market, sell and everything else that comes with the creative arts. Disillusioned with the state of the music industry, I tripped over entrepreneurship and began building business ventures from the ground up. Ultimately, I fell into technology where I immediately saw the potential of what we now call "big data". I taught myself some code and began overseeing a variety of software development projects, that somewhat play in this arena.
I often find myself envious of others who have professional titles as narrowly focused as: Intellectual property rights attorney, Commercial real estate leasing agent, Pediatric occupational therapist, Lead studio guitarist, etc. Not because I aspire to be any of those things, but because there is something powerful that comes with that amount of brevity and specificity. Not only have they stated their function, but also their focus.
One of my favorite elevator pitches of all time (the pitch, not the product) is only four words long...
Luxury underground doomsday shelters.
Ha! That's the whole pitch. Nothing more is needed to expound upon in order to grasp the product or its intended market. From this, I understand their unique value proposition in the marketplace, the construction quality and cost of the offering, how customers are motivated make their purchasing decisions, their price sensitivity, and the geographical limitations of building. Brilliant.
The thing I've come to realize with these titles and one-line pitches, is that they are fleeting. They are but a snapshot of a current reality, not the overall defining statement of one's entire existence.
What you do matters. For sure. But it should only be a reflection of who you are. In the New Testament, James describes the faith of his fellow Christians as the defining characteristic of who they ARE. However, it is the actions they DO which demonstrate this to others.
I wish I had the perfect succinct phrase to describe exactly what it is I do. It would certainly make printing business cards, or attending cocktail parties much easier. Until that time, I will just have to let my past body of work speak for itself. Although, like a true creative person, I'm never satisfied with my past work and would really rather focus more on the future.
The far more interesting question for me to answer in the meantime would be something along the lines of; What's your story? What excites you? Where is life's journey taking you?
What about you? Do you have a succinct 3-4 word phrase that describes both who you are AND what you do?