Career Day – what should I say?

The guidance counselor at my son’s middle school called me last week and asked if I would be interested in coming in to talk to the eighth grade class at their upcoming career day. Of course I would love to do that, but it raises an interesting challenge for me. You see, I’m not exactly sure how to explain what exactly it is that I do.

A couple of years ago, in a post titled “My Dad is a Knowledge Worker,” I addressed basically the same question:

When my kids were finally old enough to ask me what I do, I told them simply, “I figure out how to solve problems.” That seemed to satisfy them, at least for now. Trying to explain to friends what I do everyday is a bit more difficult. When asked, I usually give my official job title, Systems Engineer. Of course, that instantly begs the question, “OK, but what do you do?”

I recently tried to explain, without much success I think, what I do at the most recent St. Louis Idea Market using only a diagram (visualization exercise) and 5 words or less. Yeah, right.

I asked my son for advice on what to say, what he thought would be something that he and his classmates would like to hear. He’s going to get back to me. I’m starting to think that instead of addressing my current job, it may be more useful to talk about how I got to where I am. After all, these kids are going to be much more interested in how to get started than in where they’re going to be when they are in their 40’s (man, that’s old!)

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.