Generally, what Anthony and I seem to recommend is a relaxed, orderly approach to thinking about one's work.
At any time, you should be able to state about four of the main functions of your job and supply examples of your achievements in those areas.
You should be able to state a few examples of how your work supports the business by saving it money or making it money or making it work better.
You should be able to give a few examples of what you like in your work and give reasons as to why you like those things.
You should be able to tell someone what your career plans are, at least in the short term.
You don't have to be fanatically analytic to be able to this. You just have to give a little thought to what you are doing and the logic behind it.
People are supposed to start every day like this aren't they? With an idea of their priorities for the day, the reasons for them, and an ability to describe what they are doing in their technical specialties to business people in other departments.
It really just sounds like a natural part of taking a practical, orderly, common sense approach to life in general. But is this what's taught in school? No one taught it to me (many will swear to that) and I don't think it's being taught now.
How do I know? Well, how about this. Canada is currently involved in a federal election campaign and one of the main topics you hear repeatedly on the news is the lack of interest in voting among people aged 18 to 35.
Last week I saw part of Play, an entertainment program on one of our national television networks. The host is a MuchMusic-style Vee-Jay who probably thinks he's dealing with real artists in the sense of seers as opposed to mere entertainers.
He's a real puppy dog of a guy who seems to need to show how cool he is by aligning himself with the most popular of moods (eg. on Iraq). So, this time, he got himself a sign that read "Screw The Vote" and went around asking young voters about their lack of interest.
I've seen this kind of thing on regular news programs as well and the replies are always passive and cynical. All you ever hear from people in the "Canadian street" are complaints that the politicians aren't doing enough for them to be interested. There is never any sense that they live in a democracy so they can take a practical approach to politics themselves.
Why is that? Well, when I was in high school we spent one term in grade ten on how the government worked. That was it. There was no education as to how a citizen can take an orderly, rational approach to getting things done. And, so, I've always found the popular attitude to politics is always one of resentment against the boss as if you were still living at home and your parents were too strict about the car.
Sometimes, in job interviews, the discussion of hobbies can be used to find out something about what the person is like generally. After I saw the interviews on Play, I wondered what it would be like to be able to discuss politics with young candidates in interviews.
It would be interesting to see if they could state a few ideas in a clear orderly manner and then support them with evidence. Or if they just whined. I also wondered if the ability to do so would reflect anything about their ability to do the job or if it was just an extraneous matter.