If You Ask Me
I’m sometimes asked what I do for a living. Once I’ve explained that I’m a professional curmudgeon, I feel it’s only polite to return the inquiry. “And what do you do for a living?” “Oh, me?” my conversation partner may respond, “I’m a consultant.” It’s here that my mind detours to some long-pondered questions that even my vast accumulation of years has failed to answer with any satisfaction: What the devil is a consultant? And how is that a livelihood? It is easily the vaguest of job titles. For all the information it provides, one may as well say, “Oh, me? I’m in a field of business,” or “Oh, me? I have an office,” or “Oh, me? I’m a worker.” I don’t know about you, dear reader, but learning that someone is a consultant leaves me frustrated, as I find myself still wondering the very same thing I was wondering before the response.
Thus, my question still stands: What is it exactly that a consultant does?
Just last year, while waiting for a delayed flight to take off (anyone remember flights?), I struck up a conversation with my row mate (or rather, she struck up a conversation with me—I don’t do such things) which led to just such an exchange. Heaven help me, she was a consultant. With nothing but time on our hands, I decided to pursue the age-old mystery. “Tell me,” I queried, “What is a consultant exactly? What do you do? I’ve always wondered.” Well, she favored me with a detailed explanation which I found most illuminating in that it confirmed just how fake the whole business really is.
Descriptions of this so-called “job” inevitably drift into hip-deep piles of business jargon, and my new friend’s explanation was no exception. It went something like this: “What we do is conduct dynamic intra-office interfaces with existing personnel on calibrated and cocalibrated master concepts as well as macro, spread-based interjections, partnering to facilitate forward-visioned margin projections. Simply put, we utilize industry impact data to up-level product integration into mainstream cybermarkets that feature pre-synchronized models for structured consumer impact.” In other words . . . no one can explain it.
When an employed person cannot fully and clearly describe his or her work in English words, one grows suspicious.
As far as I can piece together from the few words I did understand, consultants are people who are hired by companies to come in and throw around their opinions on how things should be done. It’s something the pushier amongst us would gladly do for free any day of the week (by that measure, I’ve been a consultant for years, most prominently in this very column). One might just as well call them “opinionators” or “discussers” since that seems to be what they do. These smug so-and-sos are basically hanging out shingles proclaiming that they know more about how a company should function than the people who are already working at said company. And clients pay them on the basis of that outrageously presumptuous assertion.
Yes, fine, perhaps these “consultants” possess some sort of expertise in some specific field. And if so, bully for them; I couldn’t be happier. But if that’s the case, tell me: why don’t they say so? When asked their professions, why don’t they respond, “I’m a business efficiency expert,” or “I’m an information technology consultant”? Hmm? I suppose they’re leaving their options open, in case someone might ask for input on . . . say . . . office décor, or whether to ask for a raise, or maybe even delicate matters of the heart; when your job title is simply “consultant,” you’re not limited to any particular area, so I assume you can consult with anyone who needs consultation. What a racket.
Clearly, my next steps will be to have business cards printed, get a new website designed, and open the requisite social media accounts, all advertising my new consulting business. I’m hopping on this gravy train and riding it all the way to Moneytown. I do have a proven track record, having pointed out what’s wrong with Halloween, shirt packaging, wool hats, wine lists, showers, American cheese, conversational narcissists, salads, pillows, whistlers, and tambourine players. Who better than I to offer consultation? Maybe I’ll call it Curmudgeon & Associates, just to make it sound like it’s more than just me. Now let’s see . . .
Curmudgeon & Associates specializes in synergizing blue-sky collaboration by maximizing designated objectives while utilizing infostreams to incentivize dimensional flow on multiple latitude levels. By framing and highlighting intramural participation in hyperpatterned growth quotients, we reprotocol managerial response to ever-changing globalized drift assessments.
Yes . . . that ought to do it.