What Do You Do (In Seven Words)?

A friend of mine, Mark Whitaker, is an experienced market research professional. His official title is Strategic Research Consultant at The Kansas City Star.

That’s an impressive title, but what does it mean? What does he really do? What impact does he actually make?

In seven words on LinkedIn, Mark summarizes his job as “helping you find the information you need.”

I really like that “job description” for three reasons:

  1. It’s simple. I can understand it without having to translate industry jargon.
  2. It’s differentiating. It really describes what he does, not what his company or co-workers do.
  3. It’s outwardly focused. He describes what he does for others. He focuses on the benefits he provides, not the process involved.

Recently I stumbled into a LinkedIn discussion that challenged members within a nonprofit group to “describe what you do in seven words or less.” Here are several comments that caught my eye:

•  Help nonprofits tell stories that energize stakeholders. —copywriter
•  Find funding. Write proposals. Manage programs. —consultant
•  Tell Oklahoma’s story through its people. —fundraiser
•  Help kids fight cancer. —marketer
•  Give Nepali children a fair chance. —board chair
•  Help military members adopt adult shelter pets. —executive director
•  Give male survivors of sexual abuse hope. —IT specialist
•  Help mature displaced workers find jobs. —job counselor
•  Bring citizens together to enjoy the arts. —fundraiser
•  Help bereaved children and families manage grief. —marketer
•  Create publications that inspire people to action. —graphic designer

Granted, not all these  comments are 1) simple, 2) differentiating and 3) outwardly focused. Yet they are intriguing and better than most job descriptions. Here are a few, though, that did nothing for me. They were a meaningless mix of mundane words, process-focused phrases or tired clichés:

•  Help others realize their dreams and goals.
•  Beg for money—lots of money.
•  Raise funds to help dreams come true.
•  Raise money and awareness to change lives.
•  Shout out our message to the world.

I challenge you think about the work you do and the impact you have on others. Then, describe your job in seven words or less. That’s a tough assignment. I’m still crafting my seven-word job description.

I’ll close, though, with one that is close to my heart. My son, Greg, is an elementary school teacher who says his work is “helping children discover, learn and grown.”

So what do you?

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8 Responses to What Do You Do (In Seven Words)?

  1. Hey Duane, here’s mine

    Help professionals get found by profitable customers

  2. JoAnn Woody says:

    What a challenge! I’ve formulated and rejected more than I care to admit here, but here’s mine…so far…

    Facilitate empowerment through Collaboration, Awareness and Training.

    • JoAnn Woody says:

      Additional Note: After further pondering, I realized that I wear too many hats for just one job description to be accurate. So I came up with one for each of the “key jobs” that I consider myself to hold at this time. (In no particular order)

      Disaster Volunteer – Provide hope, compassion and assistance after disaster

      Community Disaster Education Presenter – Motivate and inspire self awareness and preparedness

      International Humanitarian Law Facilitator – Advocate for humanity and dignity for all

      Disaster Instructor – Serve as mentor and advisor for volunteers

      Wife, Mom and Grandma – Provide support, guidance, and strength through love.

      • Duane Hallock says:

        Very insightful of you, JoAnn. Writing a brief description of each of your “key jobs” is a good reminder that we are each multi-dimensioned and at times we have to find balance among our various roles.
        Years ago I heard Stephen Covey talk about “roles” in the context of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” To this day, I define my work in each of my roles as I engage in my weekly planning.
        Thanks again for your comment and the insights you shared.

  3. Bob Roberts says:

    Nice. And very much on target with our being able to “write a mission plan for our own life.” I find a lot of comparison with NPR’s “6 word memoir.” (www.npr.org/blogs/bryantpark/2008/01/whats_your_sixword_memoir.html) While I’ve had too many opportunities in this life to distill that to 6 words yet, the 7 words or less job description was easy.

    “Helping communities help themselves to be safer.”

    Although, like JoAnn, I may have to have a few more to fill up a complete day. Nice thought, Duane.

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Bob, thanks for your comment. I really like both tracks – NPR’s “6 word memoir” and the discussion of “what you do in 7 words.” One track focuses on WHO we are and the other on what we DO.

      In a midlife job loss I was fortunate to learn that my identity as a person is NOT the title printed on my business card. Who I am is distinct from what I do for a living. Both are important and should be complementary, if not overlapping.

      Thanks for joining our mutual friend JoAnn here in this discussion.

  4. Arek Estall says:

    Interesting article Duane. I like the sentiment, and will be going away to think about my own description.

    Did you decide on a description for yourself?

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Thanks, Arek, for your note. My seven word summary is…

      Connecting caring people with causes that matter.

      I do not use that as my LinkedIn headline, though, because I want to include two keywords (marketing and communications) for search optimization.

      When you come up with your description, please share.

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