“So, what do you do for a living?”
In my last blog I talked about the importance of keeping it real, and the dangers of hiding behind a lie. The flipside is dressing up the truth too much, to the point where it begins to look like something else entirely. Your CV should tell a potential employer who you are and what you’ve done. The problem is that some trendy descriptors become overused and they start to lose their meaning; who you are and what you do become unclear.
“I’m a consultant.”
It seems that everyone is a consultant, these days. But what does that mean?
Taken from the Latin, to consult really means to discuss, to confer with, or to deliberate together. When you consult with someone you are really asking for their advice. You are paying for their expertise in a given field. A consultant is a professional who will come into your place of work and advise you and your team on how to take your business to the next level. But “consultant” gets thrown around a lot. And when it does it can become difficult to define.
I recently met a man who said he was a dental consultant. Basically, he was a retired dentist who wasn’t quite ready for retirement. So he created a bit of a new career for himself as a consultant. But I caught him off-guard when I asked him what that means.
“Oh, uh, well, you know. Basically,” he fumbled, “I’m a retired dental surgeon and I consult with others in the field.”
I’m not suggesting that he didn’t know what it is he does for a living. But maybe he just needed a better way of explaining it. Maybe he assists new dentists in setting up their practices. Maybe he works with other dental professionals in developing new treatments, products, or methods of work.
You can be a business consultant, a sales consultant, or even a computer consultant. In fact, a search for consulting firms in Montreal brings up a list of organizations as diverse as accounting firms, software companies, and staffing services.
Plain, no-nonsense words
That’s my field. Staffing. I am a recruiter. That’s a plain, no-nonsense word that describes exactly what I do. Sure, there was a time when being a recruiter meant that I was out trolling for army recruits, button-holing ne’er-do-wells and college dropouts to get them to enlist in the military. But these days it means that I’m engaged in the process of seeking out and attracting viable candidates to fill positions.
But what if I convince myself that maybe I need a new way to describe what I do? What if I decide that, for some reason, my old job title carries with it out-of-date, perhaps even negative connotations?
I could call myself a Personnel Consultant. That’s got everything I do neatly wrapped up in a catchy, even trendy-sounding title. Or I can say that I’m a Talent Acquisition Manager. Ooh, I kinda like the sound of that. Everybody’s looking for “talent,” these days, whatever that means. And “acquisition” is a business term that means big things. I’m in acquisitions! Top that up with “manager,” and I’m the full package. Or I can use all three: I can say that I am in talent acquisitions management, and explain that I am a recruiter in a personnel consulting firm. But what is the difference between a talent acquisitions manager, a personnel consultant and a recruiter? Nothing, really.
Be creative. But keep it real.
You can get as creative as you want with your job title. But you have to take care that you don’t move too far away from what it is you actually do.
Contrary to an old Jackie Mason comedy routine, a truck driver is not a controller in the trucking business simply because he sits in the truck and controls it. He drives it. Sure, I suppose he can say on his CV that he is part of a logistics team, that he is a logistics professional working in the products conveyance field, nudge-nudge, wink-wink. Or, he can just say that he’s a truck driver, and let his record speak for itself.
“Educator” sounds better than “teacher.” But “teacher” is more specific and clearer. A vice principal has likely been a teacher. But a teacher might not yet have had experience in administration. Both, however, are indeed educators. It is simply a question of degree. And in this particular case, that difference is fairly important.
“Sales rep” might sound like an overused, deflated term. You might, instead, be inclined to call yourself an account executive, or a business development manager. But you have to be able to back it up; you might not have the experience to call yourself either one. Even though sales might be the goal in each case, the difference between all three terms should be clear. You could try “sales associate.” But the idea of an associate does indeed suggest more of a team situation. If you’ve distinguished yourself as a sales rep, but don’t have management experience, then I, as a recruiter, cannot position you as such. On the other hand, if you had been a sales associate, and can demonstrate experience as a team leader, then you might be edging closer to that management position that you have your eye on.
It all comes down to who you are and what you do. So, let’s go back to the original question: What do you do? Really.