What, Exactly, Do You Do?

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a new acquaintance who asked me about my consulting work.

First, let me share that when someone asks what I do for a living, I often shyly admit that I am a consultant. I’m hesitant to share my line of work because, unfortunately, there are a lot of people who give consultants a “bad name.” There are people who dabble in it when they are in between jobs; there are people who completely overcharge and under-deliver; and there are people who are not brave enough to admit that they can’t do the work. So, they get in way over their heads. It makes the rest of us look bad.

But I’m in my fourth year of consulting and I continue to feel lucky to have intriguing projects and fun clients. When this new acquaintance asked what I actually consulted on, I gave my usual spiel: “I help nonprofits with strategic growth plans. I support foundations in deciding what and where to invest in the community. And I help companies figure out how to ‘give back.’”

I didn’t give the conversation a second thought – until the next day. I was working on a client project that didn’t fit into any of those 3 buckets. And then I started thinking about all of my recent and current projects and realized how vastly different they are. Some of them include:

  • Developing a strategic decision-making framework for a cutting edge nonprofit;
  • Managing a pilot project to increase retention rates for WIC (Women, Infant & Children) caregivers in the supplemental nutrition program;
  • Coordinating a variety of partners mandated to work together under a new federal law;
  • Recommending how a foundation could approach its new grantmaking area.

And that’s just a sample of some of the really cool projects I’ve been working on in 2017. They are all wildly different. So I have a new answer to the question my acquaintance proposed:

“I help entities define success, and then I help them achieve that goal.”

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