We’ve all faced those times when we meet new people at things like parties, community events or business trips and we do the ritual sounding out of what each of us does for a living.

Do we do this to find common ground, find a beachhead on which to build small talk to fill the time, try and judge the class, social standing or bank balance of our new acquaintance or establish a superiority/inferiority pecking order? Probably a bit of all of this if I’m honest.

[Imagine the situation if a Brain Surgeon met a Rocket Scientist … “Oh c’mon on, you say it’s difficult but it’s not rocket science is it?” answered by “but what you do is hardly brain surgery is it?” …. Ad infinitum]

Anyway, for some people these early polite exchanges are quite easy; “I’m a Fireman,” one says or “I’m a Software Engineer,” says another. I’m always quite jealous of my three brothers who can quickly trip “I’m a Bricklayer” and “I’m an Engineer” off their tongues [they’re Man jobs too … they once cruelly christened me Ian Beale one Christmas as I unwrapped a Filofax and pen set in front of my proud mother whilst my brothers admired their new chunky jumpers and work-boots and sniggered at me the young upwardly mobile executive … whose laughing now bros? Winter’s a-coming!].

Have you ever noticed that for some it’s a bit more difficult to define their jobs in a quick and easy phrase when they meet new people? Often they would rather tell you their employer’s name than give their job title – “I work for the council” or “I work for Virgin Trains” or whatever.

As a rule of thumb I usually find that those people that would rather tell you who they work for than what they do are either embarrassed (“I’m a traffic warden”), fear further questions (“Doctor? Oh right – would you mind taking a look at this?”) or are in classic non-jobs (often middle management) that they know will cause eyes to glaze over if they attempt to explain or extrapolate.

So, I work in recruitment – what do I say? What do I call myself when meeting new people and asked “and what do you do?”

Do I say I’m a Headhunter? Oh my. I’ve always found that sounds a bit cringe worthy. For me the title “Headhunter” conjures pinstripes, red braces and Gordon Gekko style offices. I’m more of M&S V-Neck man myself and my office is one floor above a Costa Coffee and not a shiny edifice of steel and glass.

“Executive Search & Selection Consultant” then? No – I think not. Inserting the words “executive” and “consultant” into your job title just sounds like you’re trying too hard to impress

[I once filled out a lifestyle questionnaire at my doctors and entered just “Consultant” in the occupation box. When asked by the Doctor what I was a consultant of I could only mumble “recruitment” and hope we would move on quickly]

I work in “Search and Selection” is a possible but really what does that mean to the man in the street? [So you fly in one of those big yellow helicopters then? Do you know Prince William?]

“I’m a Talent Acquisition Specialist”…. “A what?”…. “I’m a ‘Talent Acquisition Specialist’ look on my works ye mighty and despair”…. “I’m sorry, you’re a what?” …. “I said, I’m a … oh forget it”.

No – “I’m a Recruiter” is the safest and easiest bet. It may cover a lot different types of recruitment but it’s straightforward, honest, and not attempting to be anything more or less.

What do you call yourself? Please let us know in the comments below!

Related: Top 3 Tips for Working with Recruiters…from a Recruiter!

Image: Shutterstock

About Robert Wright

Robert Wright is a Man of Kent now living in York with two kids and with another in the oven. He lives in a bombsite and is working the NHS Leadership Academy to support Trusts recruiting at board level. You can find him on Linkedin, Twitter - @robmwright or in the kitchen at parties.

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