Explaining What I Do for a Living: Finding Six Words People Can Relate To

in Program

Less is more. Clarity and brevity rule. Except when it comes to explaining what I do for a living. Having a job description that fits neatly on a visa application? Not in this lifetime. I’ve always needed paragraphs to explain my work — until now. Perhaps you do, too.

When I started working on nuclear issues in the early ‘70s, I called myself an “arms controller.” Lots of people knew what that meant because there were big debates and headlines about high-stakes negotiations. The only explanation needed was what part of the problem we were working on, and where we worked. Conventional? Nuclear? Space? As for our home bases, there were basically four options: Capitol Hill, the executive branch, a “think tank,” or being based at a university. If you worked at a think tank, another paragraph of explanation was needed. You think for a living? What do you do with your thoughts? And do you actually get paid to do this?

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