Published by Inge Geerdens, on 05/07/2014
What’s your job title? Do you like it? And do you find it appropriate? I mean, does it reflect your responsibilities, your actual job? I’m asking because I get confused a lot by job titles. Just the other day I met a really nice guy; a smooth talker, aged 26, with a pleasing personality and well-groomed. Picture perfect. We talked about a zillion things and we had quite some fun. I loved his eagerness, his spontaneity. He made a very strong first impression. We went our separate ways, but agreed to keep in touch. So we connected on LinkedIn later that evening.
I learnt he was a Director of Something Important But You Wouldn’t Understand It So I’m Not Explaining at his current employer. And indeed, I couldn’t match that title in any way with the down-to-earth conversation we had earlier on. I also couldn’t help but wonder: did he and/or his employer felt he needed a big D to convince customers about his importance or expertise? Because, let’s be honest: all too often job titles reflect a person’s seniority rather than his work. I guess it dates back to the time when we valued a long-term commitment to the company above everything else. The times have changed. Today, the focus is not seniority but agility. And with that often comes a more horizontal hierarchy in which young people often have an important role to play. It is time to rethink the concept behind our job titles.
What’s in a job title anyway? I’ve been in recruiting for over 15 years now. So I’m used to assessing people. I rarely need more than a few minutes to draw my conclusions. And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt in that period of time it is that job titles often overpromise. They’re trying too hard to sell people. The longer a title gets, the more likely I’ll be disappointed. That’s my experience. Perhaps it has to do with the Peter Principle?
What if a job title reflected someone’s ambitions and not their past achievements? That would give people purpose, the one thing we all seem to find important in life and work. It would also help manage expectations. It is after all better to underpromise and overdeliver, right? And it might save a few souls too… How many people do you know who’ve been kicked upstairs? Sure, it looks like they have been granted more responsibilities, but in reality it’s over and they’re being sidelined. The corner office: where people’s careers, professional dreams and all too often spirit go to die.
I like the idea of making a job title a goal and not an achievement. Do you?
Photo: Andrea Danti / shutterstock
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