Be More Than Crafty
Craft, crafty, craftiness, and other derivatives come with both positive and negative connotations depending on their use. I grew up with the show MacGyver about a war hero who could get out of any bind or circumstance using the most unlikely materials. Yes the CBS show was a hit and a "go to" joke for comedians in their stand-up routines. Ah yes if we could all be like MacGyver but not for the most joked about reasons.
Take a deep dive into this discussion to talk all things "craft". Here's some handy definitions to start with thanks to the good people at Merriam Webster Online:
1: skill in planning, making, or executing. 2a: an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill
1: skillful; clever. 2a: adept in the use of subtlety and cunning. 2b: marked by subtlety and guile
As much as I loved (and I do mean loved) the television show MacGyver, it fell woefully short on what it means to become successful. Here's this young war hero that the storyline focused on his craftiness rather than his craft. Yes I know it was just television - entertainment. Somehow (and it's not television's fault) we get trained by what we see. We watch people applaud craftiness, but overlook the craft.
There is never a more awkward place then at a networking social filled with brand new entrepreneurs; the recently unemployed; and employed but disgruntled employees. The pressing question happens, "what do you do?" The answer becomes even more disconcerting because for many in that room, it is their first time uttering what they do. Crazy right? They purposely attended a networking event (some even armed with business cards), and they can't answer that question.
Please stop responding to questions about your craft with 'what had happened was'
[Note: That's a reference to a phrase made popular by the actor Will Smith in Fresh Prince of BelAir]
I think we are given pats on the back for our craftiness and confuse that with honing a craft (or being in anyway good at a particular craft). I'm sorry to drop the bomb or expose the meritless titles I've seen on business cards. When you cannot explain succintly what you do, or what you're trying to do, I've not only shut down, I'm looking for my conversational exist strategy.
I get it, you got a certificate or some recognition at the job for a project or "save the day" moment, and you believe you are good at your job for that reason. No, I'm sorry, that recognition was misguided, and more than likely missed your talent. Trust me that company can find someone else to be crafty. And while there is nothing wrong with being crafty, even if that's all a job recognizes, be more than a MacGyver television character.
If you are talented enough to be crafty, you have the ability, to catapult a craft, when you decide to make the craft more important than the craftiness.
We sell ourselves short of our own potential when we settle for crafty. Craftiness means you understand how to operate in a fire situation. But how do you explain to someone that without the fire, you're the person for their company, project, product, or idea? That's where craftiness ends and the discussion of craft can begin.
Be Focused on a Craft
The 'what do you do' question should not stump you. Craftiness is not a thing, despite the numerous misguided recognition certificates that are floated around corporate gigs. Craftiness implies you know how to get out of a jam. YES, craftiness is very important. BUT (and there's always a but), if you are highly regarded in your craft - the "jams" won't happen often. Unless your craft is to fix things, it would serve you better to work toward a field and become AMAZING at that.
I find we fail our students in traditional education all the way to the doctoral level by rewarding and applauding the craftiness of completion over the excellence of the craft. There is no close second to excellence in your craft and yet somehow it's fun to talk about how someone accomplished so much with so few resources. The point? Because as I have gotten more wise (yes that's code for older) I've realized that being MacGyver is only really cool on television. When you're in that room full of other awkward people trying to network only God knows what, having a craft and being good at it is what will allow you to survive the room and thrive.
Lets Restart the Conversation...
Here's the question, "What do you do?" And your answer is,
- Say the craft plainly: "I am a XYZ."
- Tell them where you do it: "I work with,.., (a company, your own, or looking for new opportunities"
- Where do you do it: "I am based out of XYZ"
Two more essential answers to have ready
- Q: "What brought you here today?" - A. "I want to find the next person, partnership, or place that I can elevate my craft"
- Q: "What's next for you?" - A. I can't tell you what to say here, but you need a succinct answer. Be thoughtful, aspirational, and give them a reason to help you.
Entertainment Versus Attraction
People are entertained by craftiness, but they are attracted to folks who are solid and extraordinary in their craft. Somehow there is this fear that if you settle on a craft, you're shutting the door to other opportunities. Look, when you don't say clearly what it is you do, you're shutting the door altogether.
Jack of all trades master of none won't get you good opportunities.
I have some great stories about times I was ultra crafty at work to get my job done. I was truly "MacGyver-like" to be honest with you - there were times I had no other choice. When you are a single mom running a consulting firm and putting yourself through a Masters and Doctoral program, trust me there was no stone unturned. Those make for fun stories at cocktail parties, but it won't get me a job. A craft is your foundation for all of your opportunities, not craftiness.
Don't Leave Craftiness Out of the Conversation
I'll do my best not to confuse the points here. There is value to craftiness because guaranteed in business there will be fires. When I look to hire someone, it must be understood that they can be an extraordinary firefighter when necessary.
Lead with the fact that your craft helps to minimize those firefighting moments.
That's your difference. That's the conversation that will make people more curious about working with you. Promote your craft and not your craftiness and you'd be amazed at where you go and who goes with you. Now let's all go #ShockTheWorld together with our craft!
PS - Here's my Craft TalkI am Jennifer drJ Thibeaux, I am a business owner focusing on motivation and people performance. I am based in the United States and virtual office where needed. I am hired individually to speak, write, and analyze performance. My company The Thibeaux Company produces motivational products to include books, articles, motivational/spoken word albums, research, and motivation apparel. I got the nickname "drJ" while in my Master's program as I worked largely with adults in performance education. I woke up for two business reasons today, #1 - I am looking to apply my dynamic and energetic speaking and writing styles to new opportunities that help people achieve their next best; and #2 - grow my motivational and research business at The Thibeaux Company. I am in the 'Business of Better' and proud of it.