Bin man or Environmental Maintenance Officer? Why are job titles getting so ridiculous?
Perhaps I’m sitting in a glass house throwing stones because I call myself CEO and Writer-in-chief but now the BBC has given us a delightful list of ridiculous titles, including:
- Director of first impressions (= Receptionist)
- Environmental maintenance officer (= Bin man)
- Eviction technicians (= Bouncers)
Why we need better role descriptions
Someone gave me a business card once that read, simply, ‘Proud dad’. When I visited the now-defunct General Magic in the mid-nineties they all had job titles like “Chief wizard”. The job titles were all inline with the company name. Before he left Microsoft, Bill Gates called himself “Chief software architect,” whatever that means. Ubergeek, probably.
Once I met a “Managing Director” from the storied Carlyle Group. I was really impressed – actually he was a smart, interesting chap regardless of the title – but a friend of mine said that everybody in the investment world is called that.
I’ve been struck recently by the increasing verbosity and blandness of, shall we say, mid-level managers. For example, “Solution Channel Development Manager.” I interviewed somebody whose job title was twelve words long. If you need that many words you’re probably a very small cog in a very big machine. Not the best route to a stress-free career.
Top job titles
On the other hand, there are some fabulous and enviable job titles out there. Here are a few from some of the interviews I did back in my journalist days
- Artistic Director (Royal Shakespeare Company)
- Test pilot (BAE Systems)
- Co-founder (well, it was Google!)
- Manager of the Supersonic Vehicles Technology Program (NASA)
- Chief Pilot (TAA UK)
- Astronaut training supervisor (NASA)
- Principal Scientific Officer (European Union)
- Lead Mission Manager for Space Station Processing (NASA)
- Director of Shuttle Processing (NASA)
On the whole, this “research” proves that people who work in aerospace have better job titles than the rest of us.