Job Titles Are Not Impressive

Yawning wolf

Playing in The Background- You’re So Vain- Carly Simon

Many years ago when I was a wee lad I was a copier salesman for Pitney Bowes. I was pretty good at it, managed to win a sales contest that sent me to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and won a couple of other branch awards.

The two things that served me best were my ability to tell a story about how our copiers would help company XYZ be more productive and my willingness to out work my competitors.

Too Young To Recognize What I Didn’t Know

Sometimes when I hear millenials complain about not being taken seriously or about how they are portrayed I think back to that time because that was when Generation X was getting bashed.

We were called lazy, selfish, indulged and more by the Baby Boomers and their parents. It wasn’t always fair, accurate or right, but it wasn’t completely off the mark either.

That is because we weren’t always smart enough to recognize what we didn’t know. If someone handed you a business card that said they were the President, CEO or Chief Visionary of their company we smiled and felt good because we had made a contact that was important.

What many of us failed to do was ask questions like, “how many people are in your company and what are your yearly sales?”

If someone said they were a consultant and referred to having very important clients and more business than they could handle we often accepted it at face value because it didn’t occur to us that adults would try to fool us into thinking that they were more important than they were or that their business was more successful.

Paying Your Dues Is About More Than Peeling Potatoes

I’ll concede that sometimes I have been the guy who rolled his eyes when someone who is barely out of school complains about having to pay their dues and that I am not a big fan of articles and essays about how we should indulge the millenials because they just want to be valued.

Paying your dues isn’t necessarily about peeling potatoes or being the mail room person. It is about taking the time to learn your craft and learn how business works in the real world.

I am a huge proponent of education but the classroom doesn’t prepare you for all that you encounter. It doesn’t necessarily teach you to recognize that some titles are giant piles of bullshit that are designed to make you ignore/forget that the person you are dealing with is trying to sell you something.

When you start shouting words like strategy and tactics I want to hear the substance behind those terms. It sounds good, but sometimes strategy means you go full speed ahead and adjust on the fly and sometimes it means you engage in qualitative and quantitative research about your client and their objectives.

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way. Mark Twain

One of the biggest challenges in the workplace is trying to find ways to help those who are inexperienced gain that experience so they go from being rookies to seasoned vets.

From my perspective the biggest challenge doesn’t come from working with the person who has no experience but from the one that has just enough to make them think they know a lot when in reality they are still quite green.

Once upon a time I was that guy. A couple of wins and a double dose of confidence was enough for me to figure that I could handle/figure out whatever came my way but not enough for me to recognize that a clever salesman could use his impressive title to fool me into thinking they were something that they were not.

And now a thousand years later I think about all of the titles I had and laugh. Some of them were very cool and some quite ordinary but none of them by themselves provide you with true insight into what my accomplishments were.

They didn’t tell the stories of contracts signed, long term partnerships and other things that were significant and noteworthy. Nor do they tell the stories of silly things I said when I was too green to know what I didn’t know, but as my grandfather used to say, you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.

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13 Comments

  1. Pingback: What Writing Teaches You About Yourself

  2. Kenya July 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Writing on something very similar right now about this. Called Trials of the Lamb. Will be on the market shortly. But when generation X is all over the place nowadays, I will only say that these children are very smart, spirit filled, and intellectual beings. Very free spirited trying to delve into the workplace more. What spirit wants the ego to do more for us? When we are the ones to make the minute changes (min-ute). What are you doing about the workplace today? The spirit today vibes only – I want to do but I really don’t. Where is the FEEL of the people today in the younger generations? LOVE SUPREME. namaste

  3. Tim Bonner July 1, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Hey Josh

    I’m with you on this one. At my final employer before I start looking after the kids, they had such a wide structure I had no idea what anyone did.

    Assistant this, Deputy that, Deputy Assistant the other! I guess it made people feel like they had a place but my word was it ever confusing!

  4. Mary Stephenson June 28, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Josh

    Okay that is funny and brilliant. Being a Baby Boomer, you know we were all handed that nonsense when we were young. We were also impressed and green. But now they are coming up with more clever titles, example: sales associate, uh is that not just a sales clerk! Not impressed, but it sounds a whole lot more important.

    Mary

    • Josh June 30, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      Hi Mary,

      Well I suppose if I were a garbageman I would want to be called a sanitation engineer. 😉

      • Mary Stephenson July 1, 2013 at 9:40 am

        Okay that is funny! Years ago when I got this new boss he decided it would be nice to change my title as he did not like me being called “shipping clerk” so he asked me to think of something. We decided on “shipping coordinator” which did sound a whole lot more important and it did describe the job more appropriately.

  5. Barrett Rossie June 28, 2013 at 10:55 am

    OK, now that I have read it, this is pure genius: “When you start shouting words like strategy and tactics I want to hear the substance behind those terms. It sounds good, but sometimes strategy means you go full speed ahead and adjust on the fly and sometimes it means you engage in qualitative and quantitative research about your client and their objectives.” Great stuff, Josh!

    • Josh June 30, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Hi Barrett,

      Thank you. I think people forget that “age discrimination” goes both ways sometimes. I remember when I first started out it was frustrating to me to not get some positions because I didn’t have any experience. It felt impossible, I couldn’t catch a break so how could I get hired and if I couldn’t get hired how could I get experience.

      But now that I am not a rookie anymore I have run into this situation a few times where I have listened to younger people tell me what they should have and complain in a way that I can only describe as entitled. I don’t think that people should be hazed just because I was but they shouldn’t be given the keys to the kingdom overnight either.

      There is merit to putting in time to learn the things that you can’t learn in school.

  6. Patti Knight June 28, 2013 at 5:53 am

    You had me at Carly Simon….seriously good post.

  7. Jens P. Berget June 28, 2013 at 12:46 am

    I really enjoy my new job, being a solo entrepreneur, now I can have any job title I want 🙂

    I remember back when I was working at the university, many of the job titles didn’t say anything about the job. And, it certainly didn’t say anything about the person behind the title. If you had any idea how the system worked, all the job title said, was how big your salary was.

  8. Barrett Rossie June 27, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Heck, I haven’t even read this yet but I disagree.
    BJ Rossie
    Founder, President, CEO, Provost and Samurai of Creativity
    BigAss Ideas, Inc.

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