What Is It That You Do When You Do What You Do?

One of the most common questions I am asked when meeting new people is “where do you work?” My well-rehearsed response—I work at Certiport based out of American Fork [Utah] where we develop and market certification exams—inevitably prompts the dreaded follow-up question: “Oh, and what do you do there?” Although I dread it, this is a reasonable question. In fact, it is reasonable enough that I ask myself that self-same question just about every day.

What do I do?

I can tell you my job title. I can even rehearse to you a litany of job responsibilities associated with my position, but I struggle to definitively answer what it is I do.

According to Dictionary.com, do is a verb that means “to perform (an act, duty, role, etc.)” or “to … bring about; effect”. While my job responsibilities describe a series of expected outcomes, how I perform, bring about, or effect those outcomes is what I do.

Knowing and Doing

Doing is the foundation of all activities in any economy—ancient, modern, or future. If nothing is done, then nothing is produced—nothing is brought about. Unfortunately I have not discovered a way in which I can accomplish a task without doing something to make it happen. As soon as I can figure this out, I will have no problem helping my wife with the dishes after dinner. It is not sufficient to know something or even to know how to do something. Ultimately all knowledge and all responsibilities must be tied to relevant skills that convert know-how into action.

So what do I do? Well, I spend a lot of time building PowerPoint presentations, crafting Word documents, and manipulating data in Excel spreadsheets. Additionally, I spend a lot of time in meetings and otherwise communicating with business associates in a variety of settings. In these engagements I am taking notes with OneNote and/or managing my schedule and communication with Outlook. My knowledge and experience informs how I work in these applications, but it is my skill with these applications that actually enables me to do my work.

Whether you are the CEO of a multi-million dollar company, a home builder, or a heart surgeon, your knowledge and experience has to be coupled with skills using the tools or your trade. Regardless of schooling, I will never go to a surgeon that has only a theoretical knowledge of how to use a scalpel, and you will be hard-pressed to find a medical school graduate that hasn’t been sufficiently trained in scalpel-usage skills before being let-loose on your vital organs.

I feel it is fairly safe to assume that most (if not all) employees working in business, education, service, or professional service occupations will have frequent to daily use of office productivity applications such as those included in the Microsoft Office Suite or Google Docs. Even my doctor is required to use these applications in his daily job responsibilities. Being skilled with the scalpel is not sufficient for him to perform all of his work responsibilities. If he doesn’t have Word and Outlook skills, he will struggle to accomplish all of his required job responsibilities.

Prove It

In spite of my years of experience and my formal education, there is really only one section on my resume that truly informs an employer about what I can do: my certifications. Certifications are the capstone of any truly prepared candidate for employment. They enable a job candidate to say, “I know this, and I know how to do it, too!”

OK, so when someone asks what it is I do at Certiport, I doubt they are interested in my proficiency using PowerPoint or Excel; however, my Microsoft Office Expert certification has enabled me to accomplish my several job responsibilities with a high degree of efficiency. I rank my certifications right alongside my diploma as valuable credentials that verify my quality. I know how and what to do—my certifications let my boss know that, too.


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