I’m trying to make the profession of Internet stuff a collaboration rather than a purchase. Before I get to collaboration does the word stuff in my opening seem a little … well, odd?
I am cursed with an affliction: I can’t choose a descriptive title for what I do. I my head I’m an engineer; I apply knowledge and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical and practical problems. However should I introduce myself as an engineer over canapes, far beyond coffee people will think I build bridges or get covered in oil. I do as part of a team build websites but again web designer is a minefield as far as preconceptions go; you might quite reasonably assume I do visual design but I don’t. I often plump for software designer it does conjure up the activity I spend a lot of my time doing: writing code. But software designer doesn’t really say how useful I might be to you, which brings me back to collaboration.
I’d like to say ‘I can help you do Internet stuff’ but again it sounds odd. I see the same problem within my industry, people who were web designers are now SEO experts and bloggers seem to have become social media consultants. As I scratch my head trying to find the words that would help someone understand how useful I might be to them, I have an epiphany.
Engineer, web designer, seo expert or social media consultant is all very well if you know you are looking for one of those. Few people do. The most fun I’ve had in my working life has been when nothings fits, when as a web designer I’ve had to be a teacher, or as an engineer I had to campaign. The most annoyed I’ve been when people have got what they asked for, but not what they needed. I have worked in teams fulfilling to the letter the requirements of a customer knowing that those requirements are folly; it’s no fun, those were the duvet days, the days I was late to work and early to go home.
Now I want people to collaborate with, I don’t want customers who want to ‘purchase a website.’ Don’t get me wrong, you could work with me and still get a website, a bang up seo job and some social media insight but a collaboration is different from lifting down an off the shelf service.
I have my work cut out for me no doubt. Answering ‘what do you do?’ with ‘it’s quite involved, have you got 5 minutes for me to explain?’ isn’t the best small talk. But if I succeed and find people who do want to collaborate there’ll be no more duvet days and far more useful work done.
So I don’t have a snappy job title, one that correctly conjures up how I am of use to you and the universe. Now I think: that isn’t so odd after all, it would be odd if I could find a few words that did sum me up.
PS. Have a look at Hannah’s new Radiance website, a project I’m collaborating on.