Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Business Speak and Defining Work

I took my work to a café and was sitting there, plugging away with research and draft corrections over a rich cuppajoe… the one from the $11,000 machine I blogged about earlier this month… and could not help but overhear the conversation of two businessmen interviewing each other next to me. While I heard words such as market, promotion, Wachovia, and software, the rest of the conversation was unintelligible. Each question one man asked the other was answered evasively and no concrete information was ever exchanged. Questions about one’s own activity were answered with a story about what an associate was doing. At the end, they shook hands, and thanked each other for the shared time, and promised to talk again soon. What was accomplished here? I think the meeting was an excuse to drink the coffee and be late to what seemed like a fairly arbitrary kind of job. Regardless of the business speak thrown around, their occupations were never made clear. They were, however, wearing very nice suits.

Years ago, my sister was dating a man I couldn’t stand. I asked him what he did for a living. After hemming and hawing, he finally answered, “Consulting.”

“So you buy and sell people,” I said. I might have been twenty years old, young enough to be rude and get away with it, but I had a handle on the shadiness of his work.

I love “consulting”. How do you consult and how do you get paid for that? I can see this in the classroom:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” a teacher may ask a child.

“A consultant.”

Exactly. Most likely, I sat next to two consultants today.

There is something to be said for blue collar workers. They were uniforms. They have name tags. They make things and fix things. If you ask the child of a blue collar worker what his father does, he will answer clearly, “Daddy is a plumber.” Or a fireman. Or a cable TV installer. Measureable, definable careers.

Once, to see what my own daughter would say, I asked her what her father does for a living.

“I don’t know,” she said, “but he sure does use the laptop a lot.”

This year, I finally explained to my daughter what her dad did for a living—in nice simple terms she would understand because there is a certain degree of abstraction to his upper management job. Then I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“A writer like you, Mommy!” She beamed proudly. It’s precious, really, although I’m certainly not raking in measurable amounts of cash yet, but she sees manuscripts come and go from time to time. We discuss subject-verb agreement and editor’s marks. I could just eat her up.

I cannot ever see this child as a grown-up dangling vague business speak with evasive tactical maneuvers over brand name java. I hope whatever she chooses, she can describe it confidently and with a healthy dose of pride. And I really hope, it doesn’t have the word consultant in the title.

1 comment:

  1. You're sounding awful Willish (cf. 'Good Will Hunting') today. What is REALLY fun is watching the reaction to those types when a father of four (like myself) in answer to The Question..."Oh, i stay home and homeschool my kids..."... They sit there with that condescending smile and the best they can conjure is... "Oh...that's...interesting." All the while i can see it in their eyes...'What a loser, you couldn't make it in my world, could ya.' Heh, funny thing is...i'm thinking the same thing...knowing that i CAN make it in 'their world' but they wouldn't last a day in mine.


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