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I am sometimes asked what I do for a living with an expectation that my response will comprise a simple word or two. I don’t, though, have an easily identifiable profession or job which says what it does on the tin, such as engineer, sales assistant, teacher. I have given up trying to create a meaningful soundbite – it was easier to agree with my kids’ assertion that I was a spy when I was a chief executive in a world of work they couldn’t quite understand. And now I am a consultant in several worlds of work, they still don’t understand so I might as well perpetuate this myth.

As I move between types of employment it has become more of a challenge to describe what I do within the word count limitations of a personal statement, or a list of CV deliverables. Following a helpful, reflective conversation with a respected recruiter, we concluded there was a possible way of doing this. For those who are interested and have the time to read on, this is how I would describe it.

Opening the tin

I imagine a single Venn diagram with three circles, one of each is named after my roles as either a chief executive, a trustee or a consultant. The intersection of the diagram – the interesting space in the centre – is the amalgamation of these experiences.

Expand this further and think of each of these roles with its own Venn diagram. As a chief executive the circles for this leadership role are titled vision, operations and delivery. As a trustee my duties are governance, strategy and compliance. As a consultant I bring a degree of independence, task focus and constructive challenge and assistance. None of these circles are mutually exclusive – there is a flow of skills and knowledge between each.

These descriptions have different interpretations or deeper skill requirements, too. For example, when it might be time to lead from the back, stepping aside to allow others to take initiative regardless of their role or perceived status, or where culture change is central to successful operations. The visualisation could be further extended to encompass personal attributes, but that is better described face-to-face.

Overlay these Venn diagrams – imagine the central point of each as the writing that runs through the stick of rock – and you might have a measure of what is inside the tin.

Looking beyond labels

I am fortunate in my title-less role that in my recent assignments clients have looked beyond a label, enabling me to apply a range of skills and experiences to the task in hand. The work has been both programmatic and operational, and the roles I have undertaken range from whole organisation, to an area of particular interest that requires analysis and direction. It has covered policy areas that couldn’t be further apart, for example health, social care and wellbeing as well as a community consent based approach to the disposal of radioactive waste. More recently, the ability to curate national data sets and combine this with local community development approaches has helped ensure both people and place are fully considered when setting out local priorities.

As I conclude two concurrent pieces of work I am alert to new opportunities that are either interesting or challenging and preferably both. If you think I might have something to offer, just don’t ask me to name my tin.

Ongoing and recently concluded work are summarised below as well as posts that reflect my experience and topics of interest.