You’ve all got one. Some are very fussy about it. Others judge you by it. Your chosen industry demands that you have it.
What am I talking about? A job title.
People like to be put into / put other people into buckets. To have a label. It’s expected. It’s normal.
It’s also totally dysfunctional.
I’ve recently heard of some roles in the position of ‘propositions analyst’, which funnily enough had a distinct lack of candidates put forward. Why? Because no-one knew what the hell it meant. When the vacancy was changed to ‘business analyst’ suddenly the CV’s rolled in.
I was a business analyst myself for 10 years yet twice a year, every flipping year, my mum would ask ‘so tell me again – what exactly is it that you do?‘.
She knew that what my corporate label / job title was, but it was ambiguous, it didn’t mean anything. It tries to be specific but fails miserably. Across a given industry there will likely be a common understanding the nature of the role of a business analyst, but in reality the expectations still vary massively from organisation to organisation. Every time you interview you still have to explain what you actually did, in order to reach a common understanding of whether you are right for the vacancy or not. If the job title was good enough then it would be crystal clear what you had done for the last X years, and the questions could be more tailored to you as a person, your experiences and your values.
You may be thinking why not follow recent trends and take a leaf out of Google’s book by creating fun titles, after all they have a ‘Director of Moonshots’ and, I kid you not, an ‘Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe’. Or maybe the Make a Wish foundation, who allow everyone to choose their own job title and have a Fairy Godmother of Wishes, and Heralders of Happy News, among others. Even a former colleague of mine joined a start up a couple of years ago and decided to call himself ‘Head of talking to computers’.
It all seems like good fun, but it’s just the current Kings new clothes and has recently been found to have limited benefits. It also maintains a focus on giving everyone a label.
I have a fantasy that job titles don’t exist (maybe I need to get out more…). That we are treated as individuals who have experienced certain sectors, and learned a set of skills over time. That we get judged not on a title, but on what we can do, who we are and what we believe in. That we simplify life and stop using nonsense words to hide things and add confusion. That we are clear and honest in the descriptions of what we do each day. That we use common sense and plain English.
Let’s not call the bloke who empties the bins a ‘local sanitary operative’, or someone who tests code a ‘quality assurance analyst’. At the end of the day a polished turd is still a turd. Let’s call it out. Keep it real.
I realise this is a big ask. That our company’s are probably not ready for this. That society will not be able to cope without them. But I posit that it’s time to ditch our job titles and that we should break free from conventional labels.
I also posit that one of the key reasons for this is that ultimately there are only 3 roles that ever exist in any organisation.
- Thinker. These are the ideas people. The visionaries. Often called things like ‘Director’, ‘Strategist’ or more recently ‘Thought leaders’ these people are basically highly skilled at thinking. At coming up with interesting and creative ways of solving problems.
- Doer. This is where the majority of the work force will sit. These people are the heart beat of the organisation. They are the ones who get stuff done. The diverse range of ‘stuff’ can be huge, but they are in place to fulfil orders, to tick off production tasks, to deliver work.
- Leader. The third and final role. These people sit between the Thinkers and the Doers in order to ensure that the vision is met. To empower and oversee the troops. To show what good looks like. To be a positive example to look up to.
If everyone bought into this it will save us all time in interviews as it allows us to ask the straight forward question so that we know exactly what potential employers are looking for. Do they want someone to think, lead or do? (And don’t buy that they want you to do all of them).
Sure, some doers will have ideas and be able to suggest and implement process improvements, to become more efficient at doing, but that doesn’t make them thinkers. It just makes them good doers.
The thinkers may have brave new ideas but not have a clue who to talk to in order to make it happen or the order in which to implement it.
Leaders may be great at directing people to acheive a goal but may struggle to know what to do once the goal is reached.
When the opportunity arises ask your current / potential employer be clear with you. Show integrity by being clear and honest with them about what you can do.
Be honest with yourself the next time someone asks you what you do – don’t just revert to your industry label. State the truth e.g. ‘I work for a bank and help deliver technology projects’, or ‘I work for an insurance company and process claims’, or ‘I work for a gold plating company and polish turds’.
It may just be a fantasy – but wouldn’t that make life easier for everyone…?