What do you actually do?

SAM DE BRITO
Last updated 13:03 17/12/2013

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Call me cynical, but I get suspicious when a man can't explain in under 10 words what he does for a living.

Truck driver. Pornographer. Tax accountant. Federal Minister for Education. You know what you're getting with most of these occupations, though you might not hang around for a second beer with some of them on purely moral grounds.

Then you meet a geezer grinding his teeth so hard he's got the bite force of a saltwater crocodile and he tells you he's an "events promoter" or "Paleo-nutrition expert" and you just want rip open his lunch-sack for insulting your intelligence.

The well-heeled suburbs of Australia are bulging with these chaps, the archetype being blokes who say they're in "import/export", an "entrepreneur", "consultant", "developer" or "film and television producer with several projects in various stages of development" yet don't have an entry on IMDb.

Read your newspapers closely and you'll soon enough spot a four-paragraph brief recounting how the above-mentioned "eastern suburbs businessman" was pulled over by police while driving his Porsche, whereupon "officers discovered 37 small packages containing a substance believed to be cocaine". 

Or he'll turn up at ICAC (Australia's Independent Commission Against Corruption).

Recently convicted murderer Simon Gittany seems to fall into this category, running a struggling online women's shoe importation business while sporting priors for assaulting police and possessing 55 ecstasy tablets, yet still earning enough cash to rent a $1500-a-week apartment.

"Colourful racing identity", "nightclub owner" and "security consultant" are such well-worn veils for grubbiness and criminality that only earthworms and strippers with glaucoma can't see through them.

I guess Australia did start as a penal colony and no doubt there were blokes back then with leg-iron scars on their ankles who said they were in the seal skin business or a grazier, then disappeared into the bush on weekends with Bold Ben Hall.

Of course, dodgy brothers are not the only manifestation of this creature. There are plenty of highly paid, completely legitimate executives who can't tell you what they do in under 10 words: they're called management.

Also known as "carpet strollers" they're everywhere in media, advertising and IT - earning big dollars working on "special projects", "digital strategy" and "solutions architecture", they spend their time stabbing fingers at other people's computer screens and preparing Powerpoint presentations.

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If you work in any large business, you're nodding your head because there's a person somewhere in your building with a business card that reads "Senior Applications Associate" or "Chief Product Interactions Analyst" who no doubt hopes to one day be the "General Manager of Dynamic Operations".

And they always capitalise the title because nothing imparts dignitas like some upper case letters in an email signature.

New technology has been a boon for the person who cannot explain their job, so you'll often find the latest buzz word in the description with "cloud computing", "big data" and "mobile analytics" some of the new crop. If they're truly useless, they'll call themselves a "guru", "ninja", "maven" or "master".

My favourites are "life coaches" and "consciousness facilitators" or anybody developing "new modalities to progress environmental sustainability, social justice, Indigenous preservation and harmonious living".

They'll suggest your firm hire an "innovation consultant" who tells staff they need to run Tough Mudder together and buy Bhutanese art for the tearoom.

Put them in a conference room with a "high-performance sports scientist" and "social media marketing strategist" and a black hole will form.

Of course, then the "director of Human Resources, Workplace Culture and Diversity" will show up and tell you how to fix it.

Via Powerpoint presentation.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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