Job titles: Who do you think YOU are?
A recent experience made me appreciate how important our job titles are to the outside world. This makes me cranky as.
I was filling out a residency reference for a friend recently. His feedback? “Looks great. Only under ‘occupation’ please instead of ‘Editor’ can you say ‘Director’?’
Of course I made the change. I understood his rationale – it doesn’t matter that I see myself more as an editor than a business owner, because clearly the latter has more gravitas.
Until this happened I hadn’t realised how much I hate job titles. They are limiting and easily misconstrued. They are at best a necessary evil. It’s why I dread the ‘what do you do?’ question, which I normally fumble my way through while my conversation partner longs for a refill.
Even though I have published about a dozen articles on elevator pitches, when it comes to giving one, can I manage? Can I bunnies. You know what they say about plumbers and their leaky taps.
"I hadn’t realised how much I hate titles. They are limiting and easily misconstrued. "
For your amusement, here are some of the answers I spew forth:
“I’m the editor of Flying Solo, an online community that supports micro businesses.”
This is technically correct, although far from clear. What’s an online community and why does it need an editor?
“I’m a business owner”
Ambiguous. Authoritative. Kind of like this one.
“I run my own business.”
Similarly ambiguous but not as authoritative.
“I work from home.”
Has a whiff of the telegraph pole ad.
“I work from home part time, and have two young children.”
This whiffs of telegraph poles and bodily extractions! And even to my ears, saying ‘part time’ has connotations of a lack of dedication, which I know is patently untrue. Nonetheless, the sense remains for me.
This last descriptor is the most accurate, but one I tend not to use. Why? My observation is every non work at home parent I say this to seems to think it’s not at all challenging or rewarding. You can just see it in their expression. Sad but true.
In the absence of feeling comfortable answering the perennial question I am the master of swiftly turning into a prime interrogator, starting my barrage of questions with, you guessed it, “What do you do?”
How do you introduce yourself? What impression do you think it gives others? Do you go for the job title you know will impress over a personally preferred label? I’ll get Robert and Peter to kick off the conversation – perhaps it’ll help me clarify my position.
Meantime if there are any pop psychologists reading this who want to analyse my confusion over my identity, not to mention my appalling sense of professional inadequacy, I’m all ears.
Top up, anyone?