Why I now think job-titles are hogwash

The other day, one of my interns asked me what job title he should use for himself when contacting a supplier – and I said ‘make it up’.

I wasn’t being dismissive, or lazy. I was encouraging resourcefulness and imagination.

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As the treadmill of one’s career / day-job keeps rolling, mine has made me realise that job-titles are useless and a bit sh*t  actually. I don’t really believe in them. Anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, they have their time and their place – they are useful for keyword searches, they are useful for defining / reminding people of what they are supposed to be doing. They can be aspirational for junior employees looking for recognition and promotion. With very rapid promotions up the food-chain in places I have worked, I can tell you it’s lovely the first time you see ‘Manager’ or ‘Chief’ under your own name in an email signature. It’s also lovely to go to a busy government department and understand who does what so you know what queue to set up your tent at.

However, it is now 2015. Everyone with a Mac is suddenly a ‘Tech startup’, everyone with a boss has to wear many hats to keep their post viable in the lean times, everyone is everything – but most of all everyone is accountable.

Now, you argue, to give someone a proper job title makes them accountable, right? I say no. They have (or should have) a job-spec. That makes them accountable. To make them feel like their own boss, take away their title, and make them think about creating their own. They should think of themselves as an entrepreneur, an employed entrepreneur, a brand. They should ask themselves: What would you create as your job-title? Would you put yourself in a box? Would you use gratifying terms like ‘Manager’, ‘Director’ etc? Nothing wrong if they do. It holds cred.

But how about one started thinking out of the box, having fun and being more colourful about your title? In a world where suits and numbers are like ants in a sugarpot, how about shrugging it off, thinking of better ways to describe you and your job as a holistic brand – and see how many people are interested to find out more when networking instead of:

Q:’what do you do?”

A:’I am the X of Y company’,

‘Oh nice”. <end>

So I’ll go back to the first sentence of this post: The other day, one of my interns asked me what job title he should use for himself – and I said ‘make it up’.

(Without lying outright, but rather tailoring yours to the situation and your strengths at the time), I encourage you to do the same! Maybe it will break some ice for meaningful introductions at your next networking function? Let me know how it goes.


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