Meaningful job titles

News this week comes from eConsultancy is that I have a “to be avoided” job title. Thanks chaps.

I have to say that “evangelist” is a title that I’ve always found a little problematic – partly because as an atheist I find it difficult to relate to religious metaphors, and partly because the metaphor itself I find tends to imply a level of preaching when I believe that true influence comes as much (if not more) from listening to others than telling them your own opinion.

Putting theological issues aside, I do sometimes dream of having a job title that everyone understood. The sort of thing that one’s granny would immediately understand.

Good job titles seem to fall into one of two categories: known professional titles (doctor, lawyer, surgeon, florist etc), or simple noun/verb combinations that “do what they say on the tin”: (“Grave digger”, “Rat catcher”… not sure why the ones that spring to mind are so Dickensian…)

That latter category became apparent at the time of the 2001 Census: there were two questions: What is your job title? and What do you do?’; for a noun/verb combo title this was simple: Grave digger/I dig graves; rat catcher/I catch rats. For me, at the time  labouring under the misrepresentation of “Solutions Architect”, saying that I “architected solutions” left no one any the wiser.

The problem is that, in the fast changing world of ours, it’s increasingly difficult for many of us to say categorically what our jobs will involve or evolve to in the coming weeks and months. Meaningless titles like “maven”, “guru” or “Chief Playfulness Officer“: evolve as a result as people try to make sense of their ambiguous roles.

I’ve given up putting job titles on my business cards. I find it’s easier to introduce myself to people in terms that will make sense to them, and that’s very contextual. But we do need labels to help make sense of our worlds, so I know that coping with that inherent ambiguity is not a necessarily a normal trait, and prestige and influence comes from titles (an in certain cultures – much of South East Asia from my experience, or from the number of “Vice Presidents” there appear to be the USA, for example) – that becomes even more amplified.

So I’ll put up with the evangelist tag for the time being, but use it when it makes sense and adapt it when not.

8 thoughts on “Meaningful job titles

  1. I think this is where ‘brand’ comes in to play. It’s a horrible word and conjures up thoughts of PR teams like the BBC’s 2012 ‘Perfect Curve’, but it’s what goes beyond the dreary or preposterous job titles we have to use. Building a brand takes time, but you can still boil it down to that ‘elevator conversation’, Who I am, What I do, and Why you should believe me!

    1. I’ve got mixed views on personal branding, as I’m not sure that the world of “real” branding (which so often these days revels in the fictitious) is such a great model to base things on.

      However, presenting oneself in a thoughtful and consistent (although maybe changing for the context) way is really important; I guess the question going forward will be is my brand “Matt – job title” or just plain “Matt”, and that as the nature of careers and jobs continues to morph whether the personal “brand” becomes increasingly, specifically, personal…

  2. Pingback: Misnomer | mmitII

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