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I think this is the right spot for this:

I have an engineering background, I've done project management, and I'm currently working on helping my group become compliant with a new standard for us. I'm an excellent proofreader, and I'm very good at coming up with words that other people are struggling to think of/I'm good at helping people put ideas into words.

However, what I'm really good at helping other people's ideas get better. This either takes the form of coming up with improvements myself, suggesting things that don't work but spark ideas in others, or pointing out why things don't work (I'm really good at this last one). I have some programming experience, but I function better as a sounding board for ideas for people who are better programmers than I.

Is there a side job, or even a career for this sort of thing? I don't even know what to Google; what would this be called?

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    ....sounds merely like "Consulting" to me. – Scott Nov 22 '19 at 20:38
  • That's what I've heard before, but I can just imagine the conversation - Me: "High, I saw you were looking for a consultant, I'm offering my services." Them: "Oh, what's your area of expertise?" M: "I don't have one." T: "What do you mean?" M: "Yeah, I just...generally make everything better." T: "...". I promise I'm not trying to be flippant, this is just an area that I know precisely zero about. – John Doe Nov 22 '19 at 21:34
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First what you described is generally what a good business consultant does, if it is not a specialty consultant like IT, legal, tax, engineering etc.

So you could just become a consultant. It´s hard to find clients just out of the blue, though. Most successful one-man-show business consultants do either work by recommendation or they did some form of publication like a book or a blog etc.

Apparently you are not too conformable marketing yourself as per your comment (an I can relate to that very well) Sure you have an area of expertise, you just told us in your post. So when somebody asks you, tell them that. Your area of expertise is developing ideas into mature projects.

You could also try go more in the educational direction, teaching young entrepreneurs how to develop their ideas. You may need to polish your knowledge about running a startup and finding capital though. You could then either pitch your services to startups seeking to develop their ideas enough to get capital or you could go to VC´s and offer them to help work with their founding candidates.

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The person I know who does something similar to this calls himself a "Creative Consultant."

You may want to use the word "clarity" for what you do - i.e. you're bringing clarity and helping to firm up their ideas.

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  • When I perform that Google job search, just look up "clarity consultant"? – John Doe Dec 1 '19 at 23:47
  • I think you'd need to search for "Creative Consultant" then work out which people want designers and which want consultants. The problem with shifting in to this deliberately is I think the key to getting work in this area is having a good network of people who recommend you in to projects. So, you probably need to find a way of pulling other work you're doing in to a shape where you get to do the sort of work you want, then you can write it up and start publicising yourself as someone who does that. – Paul Silver Dec 5 '19 at 10:52
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Check out Ideation, Design Thinking, Design Strategy. Also maybe you should pursue more Project Management in another / bigger organization?

Wow, thanks for the downvotes! Here are some more links to these topics. IDEO is one of the oldest authorities on Ideation and Design thinking. Design thinking can be applied to all industries and orgs.

More on Ideation from the Interaction Design Foundation.

And just to clarify. I suggest a bigger different organization because more progressive companies are already using these principals in their process. OP may prefer a more innovative company that respects this type of work.

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  • Welcome to Freelancing! Whilst this may theoretically answer the question, it would be preferable to back it with references to credible sources and/or academic research. Unbacked posts attract downvotes and disputes. – bytebuster May 5 at 22:37

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