So, what do you do?

At the office

Various people have asked me what I do.

It is much easier to describe a position — I’m a Training manager; I’m an HR manager — than it is to describe one’s activities. And usually one only has 30 seconds (some say 60 or 90, but most agree it’s the length of an elevator ride). You are asked in the supermarket or over a quick coffee during interval, ‘So, what are you doing now?’ Often the interest is mild. It’s a form question to which a form response is expected; much the same as when we ask, ‘How are you?’ fully expecting the socially-conditioned reply, ‘I’m fine thanks. How are you?’

Sometimes I get tongue-tied and say too much, conscious of eyes glazing over in front of me. Often I’ll default to, ‘Oh I run my own training and consulting company, and I do a bit of writing and editing on the side.’

When Agatha Christie was asked what she and her archaeologist husband did, she wrote a book. ‘Most people, probably, do not want to know,’ she said. ‘It is just the small change of conversation. But there are, now and then, one or two people who are really interested.’ She prefaced her book with a delightful poem — an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘I’ll tell thee everything I can‘.

At one of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business forums, each attendee is given 90 seconds to introduce their business. There is the added incentive of a free Chamber Lunch for the most creative introduction. Now 90 seconds is longer than you think. Too long for my default line, which doesn’t say much about the business, and too long to resist including far too much of the eye-glazing, boring stuff. So last time, I too, went for a poem. It’s not at the Christie or Carroll level, but it won me the lunch:

Simply Communicate; that’s who I am.
To fix your staff problems, call me, I can.
Training and writing and editing, too.
Whatever you need, that’s all that I do.

Report writing skills and customer care,
Managing discipline, keeping it fair;
Training, consulting, whatever you will.
Simply Communicate, we have the skill.

Now you know.

(Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.)

Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people and HR & people-management consulting.

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  1. […] poetry effort last year won me a free lunch at the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business. I decided to expand on […]

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