Anyone else have a hard time explaining their job?

I sure do. In social situations, I dread the question “what do you do?”, because there’s no way to answer it in brief with any semblance of accuracy.

This thread is to help me, and others in my situation, come up with useful answers to this question. Explain what you do in whatever detail you feel is necessary, and hopefully we can help each other out.

I’ll start, naturally. I work at a small (<50 employee) nonprofit. It’s identified by its initials, and no one outside the industry has ever heard of it, so the tried-and-true dodge of “I work for Company” causes more problems than it solves.

My business card identifies me as a Technology Specialist. If that sounds just a smidgen vague and meaningless, that’s because it is. You can’t specialize in technology; that’s like a chef specializing in food. A more accurate title would probably be “all-purpose geek”. On any given day, I might be doing app debugging, IT and server maintenance, e-learning development, database management, SharePoint design, ASP programming, Flash animation, plain ol’ proofreading, technical writing, or whatever bizarre vaguely-tech-related thing someone decided to throw my way and let me figure it out. Loathe as I am to use tired clichés, “jack of all trades, master of none” sums it up about as well as anything.

It’s a fun job, but you can see why it’s tough to explain at parties. My most common answer to the question in question is “I’m a computer geek”, but that rarely seems to satisfy. If pressed, I’ll sometimes call myself a programmer, since about 60% of my work involves writing or editing code in some fashion. I’ve also tried saying I work in IT.

I don’t like doing either of those, though, because dedicated professionals in both of those fields have skills and credentials that I don’t (I have about three years’ worth of Comp Sci college credits and an A+ certification), as do pros in pretty much every field I dabble in. I know from secondhand experience how much RNs/LPNs hate it when the orderlies call themselves “nurses”, and I can’t imagine other professionals like it much better.

So, what’s a geek-of-all-disciplines to do? Tell me what you’d call my job, and I’ll tell you what I’d call yours. Thanks!

Me too. :slight_smile:

How about ‘Computer Systems and Database Specialist’?

I am a Systems Analyst/Business Systems Analyst and I have had that exact same problem ever since I started working in the field 12 years ago. Friends and family members have accused me of being evasive or condescending when I told them that there wasn’t a good way for me to be able to answer that question in a way that they would understand. The thing is, sometimes I myself don’t understand what my job is and my bosses, and especially their bosses, usually don’t either. I just fix problems. That could be running an emergency meeting with 20 other people of all types, do formal training for call center employees, doing the hardest database development and analysis myself, or managing an outsourced development staff in India. Often, those things occur on the same day. I am an expert on some kinds of database technologies but I also have business skills and expertise in some types of federal laws. That leads to all kinds of weird scenarios.

Sometimes I just wish I could just say teacher/nurse/programmer because people understand those jobs.

When I had odd-sounding or vague titles, I just said I was “in management” and let it go at that. If pressed, I would say “middle management”. Did that since the day I was a new hire with nobody reporting to me.

All of this pretty much involves computers, right? And it entails you “doing something technical” with them, correct? So what’s wrong with computer technician? Computer technician basically says you work with computers in some technical capacity.

Most people don’t need to know the nitty gritty of your job. They just want a general idea of the field you work in, usually. If they’re in the same or a similar field, then they might probe a little further, and that’s when you can fill in the details.

I mean, yeah, it’s cool to know ASP, Flash, and the latest Windows Server build, but do you think most people care? They just want the short and sweet answer, and if they want to know more, they’ll ask. (I was a computer science major myself, so I know what you’re going through.)

Oh, heck yes. I work in traffic.

No, not with cars and stoplights and intersections. In a broadcast facility. It takes a little explaining.

I can say Senior Test and Learn Analyst but I’m willing to bet only a few people in several thousand would know what that means.

It’s not the technical jargon or your degrees or title that people are looking for, it’s how to relate to you and what you do. The correct answer should be able to be summed up in what a lot of people think of as the 30 second elevator speech.

As to the OP, I would say something along the lines of “I’m the guy you call when you need help with your computer. I work for XYZ and we help people do ABC.” Something along those lines, with more detail added if they need it. If you want to be memorable, you can come up with a tagline.

I’d love to give my 30 second speech, but my tagline is distinctive and easily found using google.

Usually I say something to the effect that I own and run a residential construction firm that helps people rebuild their homes after natural disasters like tornados, storms, fires and floods.

I don’t get into the fine detail of 'suping jobs or estimating or insurance work or babysitting subs or holding homeowners hands or accounting or sales or swinging a hammer, or all the other 50 things I do everyday.

I absolutely hate when people say “I am a consultant.” WTF does that mean?

Another pet peeve of mine is when people hand out their business cards and they just have their name, number and address with maybe a bland non-descriptive business name and a title like “consultant” FYI, I toss your card as soon as a I get to the office. If I can’t figure out what you do, I can’t figure out a need to call you and give you my business.

Seriously, come up with a summary that’s about 30 seconds, you’ll be much happier.

My job is impossible to explain to “civilians”, so I just say “I’m your basic Oilfield Trash”. Most folks seem to get that.

Unclviny, Mudlogger

I work in PR. Nobody ever understands what I do.

I just tell them advertising for shorthand - it is much easier than trying to explain.

I used to be a Crystal Engineer. I designed frequency control components. Try explaining that to non-technical folk.

Hah!!! I know exactly what you do!!!

Of course my ex-boyfriend/current-best friend worked in traffic for PBS when I first met him. He now works as an engineer for a sports station. I used to sit in traffic and watch him do his thing. It was pretty cool, other than the Barney and Friends part

That’s all fine but it gets old ten years down the road when your own family has no idea whatsoever what you do for work. My own wife never knew. I could be working on nuclear missile launch codes for all she knew. I am not a programmer, a manager, a trainer, or a technical writer in the pure sense yet I do all of those things for large and scary mega-corps. Hybrid jobs are really hard to describe.

I’m a veterinary pathologist (i.e., a veterinarian who specializes in pathology), and I work for a pharmaceutical company. I examine microscope slides of lab animal tissues to determine whether experimental new drugs are toxic or not. Some people can’t seem to fathom the concept that not all veterinarians are in practice doing spays, neuters, rabies vaccines, and the like. Sometimes people will ask, “so you decided not to be a vet?”:smack:

I am a Public Affairs Officer - most people (if they know) assume it’s PR.

It’s not.

There is a very large, distinct difference.

IMO, because it’s a little self-condescending, since it’s a catch-all term for anything from computer professionals to little know-it-all wannabes with a generic A+ certification (like myself). I paid the money, did the godawful easy exam, and got a little card saying I’m a “Certified A+ IT Professional”.

It doesn’t make me any better than the guy next to me with 10 years’ experience, with no card, though :slight_smile:

Well, duh, telling someone that you work in Puerto Rico isn’t exactly specific.

I’m easy. I drive a forklift. Good Pay and easy work.

Sounds dangerous. :stuck_out_tongue:

People usually understand when I say that I’m like a horse nurse but without the formal degree.

However, if they ask about the research project I’m running (different place), things get hairy, because I tend to end up going into what meiotic drive is and that it is expressed differently on different genetic backgrounds (due to the presence/absence of promoters and suppressors). I’ve learned to cut it down to, “I do genetics research in flies,” unless pressed by an interested friend.