Last week, we explored the work interrogative “with WHOM” and as promised, this week are turning to the other half of the WHO of work by considering the “for WHOM” which can mean a few things – it can involve thinking about your supervisors and the managerial structure and management style that you prefer. It can also involve thinking about the kinds of clients that you like to work with and what it is that your efforts are going to be able to help them do better? And how do you feel about this? At some moment in working in my first job out of college, it occurred to me that my job was about making rich people richer. That was the beginning of the end of my time there and ever since, the for WHOM has been a very important consideration.
Even before but certainly since then, I have done a great deal of teaching – and so for me, reflecting on the FOR WHOM inevitably turns to the different kinds of students with whom I work. And I have worked with a range. From adults in their 80s to young children and everyone in between. Graduate students taking a three-student seminar to a room full of parents and kids learning how to play together as a family using improvisational theater techniques. I have taught at many different kinds of universities and colleges, in many workplaces, one-on-one and in front of audiences of hundreds. In every case, the students shaped the experience greatly. Currently, I work with scientists, social change advocates, and students learning to use framing to talk about social issues in a variety of configurations of learning engagements.
Teaching for me lately has increasingly involved thinking about how to utilize online formats – both synchronous and asynchronous. And this involves MORE thinking about the for WHOM not less – more energy thinking about how to engage, how to be interactive whether a webinar or an online course over the course of a semester.
What I have learned over 20 years of professional experience is that I will always gravitate towards teaching and mentoring (coaching) in any role that I have, but also that my for WHOM changes and continues to evolves over time. Teaching undergraduates is very different from teaching social change advocates and teaching online is different from face-to-face. I work with both in my role at the FrameWorks Institute, and I think that part of what I most appreciate is the variety – the opportunity to work with so many different kinds of learners keeps me learning – about what they are passionate about, what makes them tick, what they need to learn, and also what new affordances I have at my disposal.
Tools for thinking about the for WHOM
When I taught ethnography, we did a visualization exercise when we thought about the groups that we would be doing participant observation with. I asked students to think about the communities that they would choose to immerse themselves in, and this is of course informed by the kinds of challenges you feel motivated to solve. But work consumes so much of our waking days as adults, it really bears thinking about who you will be doing it for (and with – as you start thinking about the one, you will likely find your way into the other)! Set yourself the goal of writing for the length of a pomodoro reflecting on the for WHOM of the experiences you have had in the past. For WHOM do you volunteer your time? Whose challenges and struggles do you seem to instinctively understand and feel eager and motivated to solve?
You can also read the career path interview with folklorist and ethnographer Tom Carrol, written using the work interrogatives as a frame 🙂