Americans and Titlemania

John Krautzel
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A trend of wacky and esoteric job titles emerged from Silicon Valley startups since 2013, thanks to many firms that allow employees to select their own titles. The trend of eclectic monikers began with Google and the title "jolly good fellow," or the head of the company's meditation and mindfulness program. Google Earth engine founder Noel Gorelick calls himself the "chief extraterrestrial observer."

Other firms followed Google's example, with job titles such as "social media ninja" or "marketing guru." The ninja and guru titles have since fallen out of favor, but a slew of even more esoteric names emerged from that initial trend. LinkedIn allows anyone to search for particular titles, no matter how wacky those names sound.

One recruiter interviewed someone who claimed to be the "head of touchy feely graphics." This was a clever way to say a front-end graphics designer with a bit of user experience thrown into the mix. People who run their own businesses have come up with their own unique job titles as well. Former public relations executive Gail Rubin calls herself the "doyenne of death" and a "certified thanatologist." Rubin writes and consults about how to deal with death. Hardware engineer Mike Savini from San Jose started his own business in 2006 as a "bug specialist" since he fixes bugs that occur within computers. Savini believes his title revolves around personal brand recognition and marketing.

Esoteric job titles may present workers and business owners with an opportunity for good press, word-of-mouth advertising and name recognition. Much like a business name that stands out from the crowd, a personal brand may help someone land a better job in the future. A unique title can help a potential employee stand apart from other applicants.

However, this move could backfire. Wacky job titles simply may not convey to a recruiter precisely what an employee did at a previous firm. Although "head of touchy feely graphics" may sound great, tech recruiters probably recognize a front-end graphics designer more readily. Someone who moves from one fun-loving company to another may not have a problem with wacky titles. This type of personal recognition could work best with firms that have a specific company culture. Potential employees should peruse a company's LinkedIn profile or website to see how titles work at a specific firm.

Sometimes, titles project a certain authority or power from one organization to the next. For example, a vice president of a company may have more esteem than a manager even if the job duties remain the same. When a company vice president calls on the phone, that person may receive a different response as opposed to a department manager even if the actual job does not change. Upgrading a title in name only may help earn customers and a raise.

The trend of esoteric job titles seems to continue rather than diminish. Zany names may start as a great icebreaker when someone purports the post of "snack huntress" or "mood fixer." Traditional titles for executives may come across as extremely vague, so wacky names for positions present a new way to do business.

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