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Opinion: Enough with the convoluted job titles

Opinion: Enough with the convoluted job titles

The end of another year is a time to be thankful and to plan for the year ahead. And I, for one, am hoping 2018 brings a meaningful change to inefficient and downright irritating job titles.

This may sound like just another rant from an exhausted worker at the end of a long year – in part I guess it is, and who could blame me… surely we all enjoy letting off steam at this time of year! But there is very much a serious side to this, too.

What seemed to have started among the corporate sector as a means of making people sound more important, complex job titles have become something of the norm among businesses of all size.

You know the ones I’m talking about – those job titles that are more a sentence (or even a full paragraph) than an actual title, and include a bunch of seemingly random words indiscriminately thrown into a melting pot and printed onto a business card.

Cue the “executive general manager and director, business enhancement, integration solutions oversight, APAC” et al.

Then there are the titles that use less words, but give you absolutely no hint about what the person actually does unless you are familiar with their jargon – such as the “director of excellence”.

Forgive me if I missed the memo here, but I have always been taught that a title is meant to very simply and clearly introduce a person or subject.

Traditionally (rightly or wrongly), we use Mr, Mrs, Master and Miss to introduce a person and provide some context in one tiny word as to their gender, age and status.

Similarly, print and online media (“clickbait” aside) use headlines to provide a very simple indication of what an article is about so that readers can determine whether or not that article is of interest to them.

Yet increasingly it seems like there is some unspoken competition as to who can create the most awkward job title for themselves and their employees.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been given a business card and spent an uncomfortable amount of time reading – and re-reading – the person’s job title, in a desperate bid to understand what it is they actually do, before giving up and asking them directly and subsequently writing their explanation down on said business card (which surely defeats its very purpose).

Sometimes I’ve even had to jump on Google to effectively translate the job title presented on someone’s email in a bid to decipher their position.

Now that’s me in my role as a journalist, with a tertiary education, a decade of reporting on matters of business and property, and being raised with English as my first language.

What about those within our community who have a different experience to me – which is virtually everyone.

How are they meant to understand you and your job function should they meet you at a networking function?

How will they know if your expertise is just what they are looking for if they have to play a game of codebreaking first?

In our busy lives, will they even bother to invest time in trying to understand what it is that you toil over day in, day out?

Surely the modern world in which we live is complex enough, without such little things exaggerating that complexity. But even more profound than that: are such poor introductions actually alienating the very people we are attempting to connect with?

Everything we do in our professional lives has someone other than ourselves at its core. For me as a journalist, it’s about attracting and engaging with audiences. In business, it’s about attracting and engaging with customers or clients.

Yet if job titles come across as more about self-promotion than customer engagement, are these businesses really putting customers first? Is the appearance of having all the answers for a customer more important than actually being able to deliver them?

For me, both professionally and personally as a consumer, I’m time-poor and I put aside anything which doesn’t instantly grab my attention as being relevant to my needs or my situation. And my money is on the fact that I’m not alone in doing this.

So if you can’t communicate what it is that you do, in a very clear and succinct manner, it begs the basic question: do you, yourself, really understand what it is you are introducing to the flummoxed individual trying to make sense of your business card?

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business.