“What’s your title?”
“What department are you in?”
Unfortunately, that’s how we are defined. We are a “copywriter” or a “designer” or a “traditional” advertising type versus a “digital” advertising person. We might be a “car” guy; or worse, not a “car” guy. We could be a “client,” maybe even the “client.”
In my career I’ve been a reporter, a PR counsel, a client, an account exec, a copywriter, and a creative director. At least that’s what it said on my business card and how others categorized me.
We seem to need titles for easy categorization. Our title not only declares what we do, it frees us from responsibility for other areas of expertise. It connects us to others with the same title, making us members of a tribe. In some cases, it provides us with a sense of self-importance. It certainly determines what we get paid, though not necessarily our actual value.
For the person on the receiving end of our business cards, our title telegraphs our skill set or talent. It suggests what they can expect from us. And it allows them to place us in the proverbial hierarchy left over from the heyday of the railroad industry.
I’m not a big fan of titles, even though I have a couple of them. To me they seem less and less relevant in an age when we need multiple skills. Don’t we have to be strategists and content creators? Practice traditional and digital? Learn to be creative across all kinds of platforms?
True it’s easier to hold onto legacy systems and practices and, in this case, labels. We’ve grown dependent on them. They’re familiar and comfortable. But eventually we have to break ourselves of the crutches we continue to lean on: how we incent people, the departmentalization of our companies, the processes and systems that in some cases haven’t changed in years. Maybe even get rid of titles.
What if we just had a bunch of check boxes on our business cards: __ ideas, __ copy, __ strategy, __ collaboration, __content, __code, __SEO, __social, __optimism, __funny, __committed. Come up with your own. Whenever we gave our card out, we simply checked the appropriate boxes based on whom we were giving it to and what we might do with and for them?
What do you think? Are titles still necessary? Do they define us too narrowly? What would you put on your card?