What Is In A Name? The Cost And Benefit Of Your Job Title

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Raise your hand if you have a job title. Okay, keep it up if you like your job title. Keep it up even longer if it happens to be the only thing keeping you in that job. Hopefully not too many hands are still in the air. Since I am sure there are some, we should talk.

Let us face it, job titles are seductive.

They are clean, they are concise, and they are a promise. An unwavering name tag for your abilities and prowess. They can be so powerful. When you ascend the corporate ladder, the rungs are labeled with every new job title you attain. When you get to that beautiful, shiny, glorious rung that says "Executive Vice President" (maybe for some), the heavens open up and welcome you to true success. There are many people in the world who seek the job only for the sake of the title (hint: a solid percentage of people in medical school...) whose self-worth relies on the confidence that the title "promises" and "automatically instills."

Job titles are also traps, though. They put blinders around our eyes. They lock you in to thinking that attaining that certain title means you have made it. That you are done. Of course it is an emblem of your personal progress within a company, but there is a huge difference between pride for the skills you have gained over the years and pride for simply being called a _____________.  A great reality check for people in this position is the consideration of what happens if the company goes bankrupt and you lose the job. What do you think will help you more in the new job search, the unique skills you developed over the years or the singular job title to which you eventually rose? 

People hide behind a job title as though it is a security blanket because it is the only thing that pumps up their self-worth and makes them feel successful.

A lot of them wear it like a cape and allow its aggrandizement distract them from the fact that they have even more real, tangible tasks for which they are responsible (For those of you reading this who are proud of your job title because of the work you put in to earn it, keep doing what you are doing because you are the ones who care about true personal evolution).

The greatest trap of all is when a new boss says "come up with your own job title". Ummmmmm okay, how about Supreme Lord Commander of the Universe? Chief Awesomeness Officer? For a side gig that I am currently undertaking, my new supervisor has given me the opportunity to choose my own job title due to the fact that I will be responsible for a myriad of things related to narrative and business operations. My creative brain immediately perked up and came up with some ridiculous titles that made me chuckle, but then my intellectual brain sauntered in and suggested we think practically about what would simultaneously represent my personality and the roles I will inhabit. 

Supreme Lord Commander of Narrative and Strategy.

Just kidding. Maybe...

It would take up two lines on my business card. Probably worth it.

Speaking of my own job title, I have held many titles over the course of my business' lifespan. Some are specific to my service, like:

  • narrative coach
  • personal branding consultant
  • communication coach
  • storytelling teacher
  • personal development strategist

while some are concise labels that attempt to categorize me into preexisting niches:

  • therapist
  • life coach
  • writer
  • entrepreneur
  • CEO

Someone once called me a Change Agent, which I really like, though no one would know what that means if I put it on my business card. The interesting thing about me and my job titles is that none of them truly convey my uniqueness. Each one attempts to encapsulate all of me into something someone might be able to digest. Because none of them 100% articulate what I do, none of them stick around for long.

The key is that I am not married to a job title, either, and I sure as heck do not own my company just for the title.

Sure, I think of one from time to time that I would enjoy but it is not yet a point where it would be appropriate. 

I know entrepreneurs who love seeing CEO or Founder on their LinkedIn page because it sounds grown up and powerful. It does not mean that their business is going anywhere, though. Sure, I am a CEO and a Founder, of which I am proud, but I am also the unpaid intern, the Human Resources director, the marketing associate, the sales department, and the brand spokesperson. Being the founder means nothing if I do not continue working on the business and evolving my skills and knowledge. 

So I ask you this:

  1. What is your job title?
  2. How do you feel about your job title?
  3. Why do you feel that way about your job title?

Getting real with these answers will tell you a whole lot about your career goals and it will save a whole lot of time on the path of your professional journey.