I originally wrote this in December of 2006. I wanted to update the links to two of my most favorite people in cyberspace, Penelope Trunk and Pam Slim. I recently read an article in the last issue of Good, where a college grad with a master's degree said, "I honestly had no idea to how to explain to people who I was and what I did." Both Penelope and Pam offer advice on this topic here. I'd also like to explore a bit about it in my next post.
In the tenth grade I was asked by a guidance counselor, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" The thought that I put into my answer was equivalent to a four-year old saying he wants to be a fireman. The year was 1972, and I said I want to work with computers. To quickly dispel any thought that I took this statement, dedicated my life to it and followed in Bill's footsteps - I just learned how to copy and paste on computers about four years ago...although in reality I've been working with computers for twenty two years...the same way a clerk at Target works with computers.
While trolling around doing research for our last Starship Mission, I came upon Penelope Trunk and her site Brazen Careerist. Penelope is an old school blogger who has cataloged a ton of useful information over the years. Penelope is also a prolific syndicated columnist. She might find it odd that I find more significance and relevance in her blog than that of print media (advertisers will eventually figure this out). Penelope writes a thought provoking post in Answering the question, What do you do? She links out to Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation and Pamela's most timeless post: How do you introduce yourself?
When asked the question, "What do you do for a living?" I've never been able to look someone confidently in the eyes and say, "I'm a...." I'm not trying to do the "woe is me thing" here. It's simply a fact. I believe it's been that way because I've never been satisfied with any position in my entire life. As Pamela says, "By wobbling around in your introductions..." I've been a master wobbler.
Here is an example introduction from Pamela:
The way you will start really owning your new business venture is to introduce yourself as an entrepreneur. Examples:
New Acquaintance: "So, what do you do for a living?"
You: "I help homeowners use solar technology to reduce their energy bills by 400%"
New Acquaintance: "Wow, that is cool! How long have you been doing it?"
You: "For the last year or so" ("or so" is the key word ... )
New Acquaintance: "And this pays your bills?"
You: "It will in the next year as I complete the first phase of start-up. In the interim, I moonlight as VP of Marketing for IBM."
Of course I have no business ventures but there is much to be learned from Pamela's words. She finishes with:
A Buddhist friend once told me that the words that you say form a force field of attraction around you.
Pamela shines a beacon of light with this post. I should be able to see it once I get the chicken feathers out of my eyes.
Update December 9, 2006 - So I go to a party armed with this fresh new knowledge. I'm ready and set to introduce myself as a writer when the first bloke I happen upon turns out to publish and own five magazines. The dude doesn't ask me what I do, but I was prepared to chuck the writer spiel and labor down the "I am a manager..." Yuck!