‘Tis the season for holiday get-togethers and for the time honored question of, “So, what exactly do you do for a living?” I won’t speak for all my fellow coworkers or those who loosely fall within our industry, but it’s a perpetual question made worse because our jobs don’t fall into what I call, “the bucket of childhood career fair jobs.” When you say you’re a firefighter, nurse, airline pilot, and so on, people know instantly what you do (ok, they probably don’t really know but they think they know, and that’s what matters here). My wife is a veterinarian. I tell people that and it instantly clicks. (Note, I actually say she’s a small animal surgeon specializing in oncology cases, and I often get puzzled looks.)
So, what do I (we) do? In fact, if you pose that question around our office, you’re likely to get different answers, even save for the fact that our job titles, duties, and specializations vary a little. Ask our clients that question and whatever we did last for them will likely be their response.
For any given day, project, or client, we may be a market research firm, strategic thinkers, data analysts, consultants, evaluators, or social scientists, to name a few. Easy enough to explain, especially with a cocktail in hand at your aunt’s house, right?
Or, some may be tempted to say that we facilitate retreats or do surveys and focus groups. Technically not incorrect, but it’s like defining Colorado by the mountains. Not wrong, but it really misses a lot of the great aspects of the State.
I always instruct new hires at Corona to start broad then hone in on what is relevant to the person you’re talking to. Perhaps, “We’re a research and consulting firm specializing in the nonprofit and government sectors,” followed by, “for example, we’ve done [something more concrete that they may be able to grasp].” Even that probably isn’t perfect, but that’s why we have a holiday season every year to try again.