I hate job titles, precisely because I used to love them, and they didn’t always love me back. I used to be a judgey-judgerson; yes, judging others by their titles, but mostly judging myself and what my title said in size eight font on my business card about how important I was (or wasn’t).
Back in the day I looked up to role model bosses who handed titles out to competitive, hungry young grasshoppers like ribbons at state fairs. As one of the hungriest grasshoppers I learned to value titles too. And quarterly bonuses and obnoxious acrylic awards littered about my desk and “face time” — not the FaceTime of today — the shitty kind in the early 2000’s which signaled you were important if you were at the office, always, not at home like the laggards reclined on their La-Z-Boys.
If my job was named something big and impressive, then wasn’t I something big and impressive?
Turns out, maybe not. (But more on that psychology in another post for another day.)
So, while I’ve gotten over whether my job sounds important (the passing of time, a good bit of coaching, and the slap-in-the-financial-face of self-employment will do that to you), the question in my head has transitioned from “But what will LinkedIn think?” to “Will this elusive title accurately capture whatever it is that I do?” because I’m a neurotic stickler for getting it right (so I’ve licked the ego thing and the issue has morphed into perfectionism. Great!)
When setting up Happy Spectacular, we came up with a list of possible titles while our business cards were being made, but couldn’t decide on any, because none of them seemed representative enough of the work we were doing and would do in the future.
The whole Coach title makes one half of the world see a whistle around the neck of an aggressive person in an athletic field and the other half of the world see a graying-haired woman in a marigold field, wearing a flowing dress that smells of patchouli, using the word purpose too much. (Other than our coaches of course.)
I toyed with Operations Director/ COO/ VP of Anything. No, no, no. Too corporate for a brand that has a paper airplane in its logo.
Chief Happiness Officer made me want to stab myself in the face. We did try.
There were more but we’ll save you some time because no one cares. No one cares if my title or your title is big or small or accurate or even in English. If for some reason someone did care about my title or your title, it just doesn’t matter. If people use titles as a way to judge other people, the rule is that they can be summarily ignored. If people use titles as goals for themselves, maybe that’s not so bad, like the person who just got the title bump to the exact job she always wanted as a kid (that’s got to feel pretty good). Because Shakespeare was right, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or something, but if the title really does matter to you, just don’t put that on other people. We don’t need the extra pressure.
I’m happy to report my progression from an ego-centric grasshopper at the start of the century (What does my title say about how much I have to offer as a human being?) to perfectionistic (How exactly accurate are the words used to describe specifically and correctly what I do?) to an inordinate-yet-healthy focus on whether what I’m actually doing is important (Am I making a difference at Happy Spectacular? Am I really helping to do what we set out to do? Am I doing the most important stuff first, instead of making even more brownies?). I’m okay with this obsession.
In the end, we went with no titles on the business cards and no titles on the website. Not because they would or wouldn’t sound important, but because there are bigger fish to fry. And we realized the perception of what we do everyday is much less important that what we actually do.
How do you feel about job titles? Is it a goal you set for yourself or shackles you’re ready to shrug off? Sound off in the comments!
Jodi is a co-founder of Happy Work Spectacular Life, loves red Skittles (maybe too much) and finally got a Happy Spectacular logo tattoo.