The Linked-In title inflation

Just an observation

I was just browsing through Linked-In, looking at what my peers and dears were up to in their professional lives, when it struck me that there’s quite some title inflation going on. But hey, who am I to speak, I’ve been at times senior manager, director, client principal, with really no fundamental job change other than that the pressure to sell-sell-sell increased with the title increases and the size of the car.

I eventually returned to the real fold where I belong, internal audit, and I drive a Mini now. and funnily enough, my title is the title that my function has carried for years: Chief Audit Executive. Sometimes referred to as the Head of Internal Audit. Not necessarily the brain, but that’s an entirely different post.

Do titles convey meaning?

I wonder. I quickly scanned through a couple of Linked-In pages and ended up with this interesting list. I then used that list to add my interpretation of the title and finally compared it to the actual function. Quite an interesting difference:

  • Administrator: I thought this person would be an administrative responsible. Far from it, this appears to be a high level function within a corporate environment;
  • Advisor: Based on my background, this would have been a junior profile. Imagine my surprise when I actually saw this was a person with 25+ years of experience in a specific field;
  • Supervisor: Here I thought this would be a co√∂rdinating function, but it turns out this is almost an entry position in a well known consuting environment. You become a supervisor after only 2 years of experience. I wonder who you get to supervise;
  • Manager: Here I was in the money: this is a position which translates to between 4 and 6 years of experience in a consulting environment. The person took a first responsibility in managing a limited client portfolio;
  • Expert: I was off on this one, in a bad way: where I thought this was a function where you needed 20 to 30 years of experience, it turns out this person has 3 years of experience, none of them actually relevant for the proclaimed area of expertise;
  • Senior Manager: A function I know well, I’ve been it. It appears, however, that there is a title competition going on between the Big 4 (which is where I plucked this title from) … whereas I required 8 years of experience at the time, you can now qualify after not even 6 years. Interesting;
  • Managing director: The big boss, the head honco … and it’s true, but of a one person business. It’s not misrepresentation per se, but it does confuse the issue. On the other hand, I’ve had business owners profile themselves as senior consultant as well, which perhaps balances out …
  • Business Plan owner: I had no clue when I read this, and I still have no clue after having read the job description.
  • Specialist: Again, before I would call someone a specialist, they would need to prove some measure of specialization to me. This is apparently a title given in certain consulting environments to people with 3 years of experience.
  • Account manager: He who manages accounts, or at least one account. They key client contact, although he can be easily put aside if the manager, the senior manager, the director or the partner (see also owner) choses to do so. It appears this profile is the buffer between an organization and its clients, charged with selling everything without any control over the delivery but all responsibility for maintaining the client relationship. Ouch!
  • Owner: The boss, the partner, the head honco, even higher than the managing director. Turns out this is one of 140 owners in this specific consulting environment. They are commonly known as partners, but what is in a name.
  • Front Office Officer: I loved the repetition in this one. An office officer. Waw! Quite a difference from the plain old receptionist. Probably not a significant pay difference, however.
  • Seasoned Human Resources Manager: This is where it got too much for me. I was wondering what they seasoned him in, and whether he was able to speak to someone afterwards.

This is where I had to quit, because I could not take it any more. I don’t want to insult anyone, but let’s look at this from a distance: I cannot make out the forest for the trees.

The quest for clarity

Trying to make my way through the nomenclature of different providers of services, I fail to see what those names actually contribute to my understanding of their competencies. Tell me what you do, and I will tell you what you are. Don’t make it more complicated or more scientific than it is. Don’t overinflate your title. If you call yourself liquefaction engineer, you are still a plumber. And that’s a good thing. Be proud.

What we need, more than ever, is less talk and more pride. So I’ll just shut up now.

P.S. And I know I’ve been guilty of this myself. Let’s be honest, people, it takes one to know one.