We are brought up to fit in. To be able to encapsulate what we do in the time it takes to go up in that proverbial elevator in the unlikely chance to person who wants to listen to you is in it with you and is not losing the will to live. To have a resume with neat tags such as “cost accountant” or “business development”. All this at a time when the world of work is melting and reforming. We are encouraged to categorise ourselves perfectly for a world that no longer exists.
I’m currently writing a book and one of the things on the the “to do” list of the people who are supporting me is to decide its genre. The most obvious and easy to explain category, if I search it gives me three billion – billion – responses. The one I want to go with, which feels more like what I’m doing, is more obscure and generates a mere three million responses. Which one to go for? Small fish, big pond, lots of people fishing, or bigger fish, smaller pond with more dedicated fishers?
In the end, for me the answer is easy. The book is not a commercial venture, it’s a form of application for membership to a group of people I want to associate with. That though is a luxury provided by my circumstances, and I’m well aware would not have been available to my younger self, when in many ways I would wished to have written it. It is what it is.
The question though strikes me as a wider one, and relevant to the audience I am writing for. How should we describe ourselves in order to be amongst the company we want to keep?
It seems to me there’s a paradox. The more specialised we become, and the more skilled we become, the more technology can replicate what we do. As the aforementioned accountant, much of what I have learned can increasingly be done by an algorithm, as can the analyst work of the business developer. Faster, clearer, cheaper, and with none of sticky HR infrastructure. The things that would make me important have never been part of the curriculum – empathy, philosophy, creativity and all the other soft skills needed to make connection with the human who has the need rather than with the process of solving their problem.
If I search “Accountant” I get just under three hundred million results. I I modify the search to “Accountant Personality” I get just over twelve million results. This is not to say accountants do not have personality – That’s one I know personally to be complete nonsense – but it’s perhaps an indicator of what is being searched for. If I search “Tax Accountant” I get three billion results.
And yet. The most successful accountants I know, measured by happiness with their lot, put the soft skills first as they have come to understand that those are scarce, and the mechanical skills much less so, and in any case easily acquirable in either human or technical form. It’s a big pond.
When said accountants can work easily from home, over long distances, and connect to highly specialist skills easily, the most sensitive and important part of the emotional value chain is the final one – between the human with the problem, and the human with the solution network .Very little of that relationship is determined by qualifications.
To reiterate; I’m not picking on accountants; it’s just that in my own world it’s an area where I see the biggest disparity between what their clients really buy, and the description of the Genre.
It applies of course to all of us. What’s your Genre?