Imagine meeting people – at a conference, party, in the pub or at a dinner party. How do you introduce yourself? What do you talk about?
Unfortunately it feels like too often we steer to current job as the primary focus of who we are, for example my favorite dating column always mentions age and occupation before anything else. Even LinkedIn encourages this with its “headline” prompts to encourage you to use your current role rather than something that describes YOU.
This plays into some of the problems in society too, for example paternal leave as still being seen as odd by some or those who have had time out to care for loved ones struggling to get back into the labour market. We have messy lives and current role will rarely be a perfect description of what you are about – even full histories on LinkedIn and CVs struggle to do this.
Now in some areas it may be correct that you are judged on your latest role, for example you would hope the Thomas Cook management team will be judged on that company’s failure and any past success is not used to self promote into other top paying jobs (thus ignoring their role in a brand’s collapse). However, as we’ve seen from most of the senior figures involved in the 2008 crash, mud often does not stick to those at the top.
I’ve recently just finished the back catalogue of the L&D Podcast. The first episode, an interview between the host (David James) and Nigel Paine resonated a lot with me. There were elements of Learning Reducer concepts at play here but on a personal level Nigel’s explanation that he “knows a lot on many things” [possibly sic] feels largely where I am. I have been keen to develop skills and experience in a broad way, in fields where I feel once you have done something once or twice you have done that and you can move on and learn other things.
As Nigel mentions, he could have specialized and so could most of us, especially in the learning industry.
I could, at different parts of my career, specialized by spending more hours on things from delivering information skills (which I’ve actually picked back up just recently), developing eLearning modules (which I’ve picked up a bit recently too), LMS management, LCMS management, classroom facilitation, virtual classroom facilitation, etc. etc. I fully recognise that there are instructional designers, eLearning developers, etc who will be super specialist in such areas or a particular tool (say the Articulate Suite) where I would say I a am ‘competent’. However, I can assist organisations via a broad range of learning (or Learning and Development) related areas.
Overall I feel I have a good spread of skills when one considers things such as the LPI Capability Map, as well as leveraging my background in libraries and information to tend to come at learning issues from a different perspective. To simplify, my default position is often for social collaborative learning, built around curated resources. However, I am also aware that what the social within this means will change and increasingly be driven by AI. Or in other words, my default position is not for anything that resembles a sage-on-stage ‘classroom’. I would rather see people discussing this mentality piece in learning rather than saying we need a “developer”, “facilitator” or other narrow skill set.
There is also a related point that I’ve complained about before, that you can register for webinars for your own personal development but can not access them with a personal email (such as outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo, etc). Here vendors are being short sighted for their current sales pipeline rather than long(er) term branding and customer development. Indeed free webinars may well be a good recruitment tool for them – for example, I would happily say I would love a job at Mercer, Brightwave and many others companies due to the quality of their work that comes out at free conferences and webinars.
So, when I introduce myself at an event or in the pub what do I describe myself as? Good question. I struggle and I’d happily accept suggestions from readers! One fact would be that it would not be restricted to any of my previous jobs – we are more than a sum of our parts. Overall, let’s not pigeon hole people and let’s not forget the power of experience and the “whole person”.