12 Apr Confusing job titles: What do you do, again?
From bride kidnapping expert and penguinologist to innovation consigliere, Emma Sinclair is bemused at the extent of confusing job titles these days. Currently a CEO, she’d rather be a rock star ballerina mermaid.
“What do you do?” is pretty much the second or third question you always get asked at a party. These days people are required to write pithy descriptions of their jobs for LinkedIn or as their Twitter handle. Even my 70-word journalist bio for Telegraph Wonder Women caused me consternation.
What do I do? Everything, naturally. My title is chief executive of Target Parking but does that actually tell anyone what my day job involves? My original plan was to be a rock star ballerina mermaid but I haven’t quite got around to that bit yet.
The modern age has created a range of unintelligible job titles and careers which don’t sit neatly in the traditional ‘doctor, ‘teacher’ or ‘fireman’ boxes. It’s not uncommon to see titles like ‘value creator’ and ‘customer experience evangelist’ now when looking through piles of business cards. The latter title belongs to Pat Perdue, a former director at DraftFCB, specialising in branding through social media.
Roger Gorman is also ex-DraftFCB, where he helped to head up innovation. Whilst there, he gave himself the title of ‘innovation consigliere’ – a term borrowed from the Mafia, made famous by the Godfather. A consigliere is someone a Boss appoints who they trust – the guy that ‘gets stuff done’ – and that’s how Roger wanted to position himself.
He’s subsequently built a business off the back of wondering what people do and recognising that in the main, people rarely know what anyone else’s job involves and what skills they possess. He concluded that when businesses lack fast and accurate access to the right people, they suffer losses and significant lost time on mass emailing, endless phone calls and fruitless ‘asking around’ to seek the right people for the right job.
“Matching people, employee interests and specialisms to the right clients and projects is a powerful way for firms to build demonstrable career opportunities, a profitable business and company loyalty,” he told me. So he built ProFinda – an ‘expertise exchange’ he describes as an “internal talent engine” helping connect the right people, with speed and ease.
Used internally by corporates, the outcome of using ProFinda is immediate visibility and access to everyone in your department and business regardless of location. Everything they’ve worked on, every piece of insight they know, their shared connections and even opinions. Great for a business using the software – but what about the rest of us?
Rachel Bright is author of children’s book ‘What does Daddy do?’ She tells me that “it is increasingly difficult to answer the question of what you do without causing your conversation partner to wander off mid-sentence to look for a vol-au-vent or something stronger to drink”.
In the story, Dexter’s daddy is a fireman, Rosie’s daddy is a doctor but Daisy’s just isn’t sure what her daddy does all day while she is at nursery. She knows he has ‘mountains of paperwork to climb’, and he always has to ‘fly’ and his boss is a dragon – but can he really be an explorer-super-knight?
She recounts some wonderful stories from her research. One of her friends confessed that for the first 12 years of her life, she thought her dad worked at the train station, since that’s where they dropped him off every day. Another told her that long into adulthood, she believed her father had helped build Tower Bridge, since every time they drove across it when she was a child, he had declared, “I helped build this”.
Apparently it was only when he started claiming the same thing about many other major landmarks that her suspicions of a recurring dad-joke were aroused. What Rachel learned is that we carry all kinds of beliefs around with us that are formed from the scantiest of fact – which is understandable as a child but seems somewhat unnecessary as adults.
I’ve read some hilarious biographies and have fallen in love with the satirical style and humour of the author or unintentionally expressive title their day job carries. Take Dr Tom Hart who is a penguinologist often found at London Zoo, Dr Russell Kleinbach who is a bride kidnapping expert and Richard Scheuerman who is a shredded cheese authority, in his capacity as past president of Alto Dairy Cooperative.
Some people are role-focused, some are job-focused, some are design-focused. While we should all strive to grow beyond the constraints of a job title, we would do well to remember that unless for the express purposes of humour, awkward and mysterious job titles don’t help grow a business (because no one understands it), important-sounding-slightly-over-thrusting job titles tend to suggest ego or confidence issues and what really matters is that when you hand someone a business card, they either know why to call you – or loved the job title so much that they will call anyway just to find out more.
Perhaps for those of us who have abandoned the hierarchy of large corporations, we are able to better say what we do without hang-ups and without any need for posturing or positioning. Emma Sinclair. CEO. And wannabe rockstarballerinamermaid.