As a staffing professional I see more than my share of resumes. Like most readers, one of the first things I check out is a person’s title. Some are obvious—Accountant—and some are perplexing—Director of Consumer Intelligence—and some are just plain silly—Director of Possibilities.
Some titles emerge as a sign of the times; for example, Chief Blogger or Search Engine Optimization Specialist. Then, there are some titles that put a new spin on a known job, or have been changed to improve a job’s image or that of the worker doing the job. Yesterday’s Personnel Director became the Human Resources Administrator, which has now morphed into a Talent Strategist. Some companies call their Receptionist team Customer Care Associates to emphasize current trends toward customer loyalty and user-friendly service. It’s all part of new attention given to corporate and personal branding. For some, it helps to emphasize a particular focus or to realign new business goals.
If you check out social networking business sites like LinkedIn.com, you’ll see quite a few people who title themselves as a Ninja, Guru or Evangelist to describe their particular expertise. And, there’s a whole new world of workers who are full-time Consultants—and that can be in practically any field. The Internet created an entire industry of job titles that never existed just a few years ago—eCommerce Specialist, Social Media Director and Web Analyst, to name a few. Heck, I’ve even seen Chief Tweet Officer!
People who are looking for work should be careful not to be too clever with their titles, simply because search agents may not find them when they do keyword searches. You may have worked for an employer with a corporate culture that encouraged creativity, so that a Collections Manager is renamed a Revenue Recovery Specialist, but once in the job market, a recruiter is likely to have a harder time finding you under your new-age title.
In this economy, titles may get changed to boost morale or as a replacement for pay increases, but in general, a new title is not the retention tool companies like to think it is. Over-titling is also a cost savings move that comes with a hefty price tag when people who are under-qualified for their title gain credentials or a job perception that isn’t the reality. Some companies have even done away with titles all-together, or apply one universal title, like Associate, for everyone.
As titles have evolved, so too has the C-suite. What was once the domain of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Finance Officer (CFO) is now a world of Chief Learning Officers, Chief Technology Officers and Chief People Officers. It’s a whole tribe of new leadership.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making sure people have titles that accurately describe what they do and also make them feel good about it, but I do think some of the hype to improve an occupation’s perception is a little over the top. The Brits did a survey of 4,000 workers and polled them on the website www.jobs2view.com to identify “the most daft” job titles. The winner, with 28 percent of the vote, was Vision Clearance Engineer—also known as a Window Washer. Others included Knowledge Navigator—Teacher—and Petroleum Transfer Agent—Gas Station Attendant.
I haven’t seen any similar formal surveys for unusual job titles here in the U.S., but I make it a point to collect ones that stand out, either in a good way or a bad way. If you have seen one, please e-mail me and I’ll share it with our readers. There was one that made me smile recently; it was held by a store owner. His business card identified him as the manager of a delicatessen. His title? The Deli Lama.
Nancy Schuman is a vice president at Lloyd Staffing, headquartered in Melville, and is the author of eight how-to books on career guidance and job-search techniques. Lloyd Staffing offers temporary, contract and full-time employment services on a regional and national basis. Send your career-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.