The WHAT of work

The WHAT of work are the task, duties and responsibilities that you perform as part of the work, really all coming down to the central mapping exercise:

The skills, interests, and abilities that you bring How these map on to  The duties tasks and responsibilities of the job



So your task is to learn as much as you can about both sides of this equation.  LinkedIn is a perfect place to learn more about both of these because there you have access both to how the organization is articulating the WHAT of its needs and you have current employees talking about the WHAT of their job.  As a candidate, there is much information to be mined.


Here on Career Linguist, I do a great deal of thinking about transferrable skills, beginning at the beginning by having you think about  the skills cultivated by the study of linguistics.


When you conduct informational interviews, be sure to ask lots of questions that get at the WHAT of work.  Questions like “What do you do on a typical day?” (and don’t let them get away with responding “there is no typical”) they can describe yesterday, or today or tomorrow.  It doesn’t matter – the point is to start thinking very concretely about the task duties and responsibilities they perform and how these make use of their skills interests and abilities.  For those of you who don’t have much experience with informational interviews, I recently came across this resource featuring many example informational interviews, perhaps you will find it useful (either way, I would love to hear what you think of it)

Some ideas for engaging thinking about the WHAT:

  • Take a look at your master resume. Every one of the bullet points under your Experience, Education, and Skills sections should speak to (at least one, and no more than two, three at the most) WHAT.  Think about what WHATs might be missing, remember that the master resume has absolutely everything, explored with absolutely every kind of detail that you can muster, so feel free to elaborate.


  • Now look at a tailored resume, pay attention to the order of your WHATs.
    • Make sure that there are no WHATs here that represent something that you never want to do again – resumes are wish lists, don’t put anything there that you know for sure that you don’t want.
    • Think about the ordering of the things that you have listed – and pay particular attention to what comes first. What WHATs are you using to kick things off?  There is special importance to what comes first, so make sure you get some input about what this structure you have chosen is communicating.
    • Do they tell a story? If so what is the story and is it the story that you want to be telling?
  • Looking at a job ad: Put the text from a job ad into a word cloud generator. Then put the text from your resume. Are there words that really stand out in either one?

Finally, get lots of data that you can use for comparison and analysis: resumes from peers, from other people in your sector, from people who currently work in organizations of interest, from job descriptions of people who have jobs that interest you, etc. etc. etc. What are the WHATs that most interest you.  How can you pursue these?


Want to read more? Click link to navigate to WHERE, WHY, and HOW of work!!

You can also read the career path interview with folklorist and ethnographer Tom Carrol, written using the work interrogatives as a frame 🙂

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