Alex Butler asks what happens when you don’t have a job title.
When you come into this wonderful world of freedom and control over your working life, you also have to leave some things behind. Most people tell us that the most difficult transition is the move from status as defined by your job title to – well nothing.
I hear a roar of indignation. Surely we are losing the shackles of corporate life and the job title encapsulates everything that was wrong about it! We are. But ask yourself this.
What do you say when people ask you what you do?
Job titles aren’t just simple descriptors of the job role that you had. They are full of unintended meaning. They say ‘I’m quite high up the ladder’, or ‘I’m in the creative bit of my organisation’. Or simply, ‘I have a job, and that means someone wants me and my skills’.
In a company, it’s a sort of exclusive language that allows people to benchmark you. I always took my job titles for granted. I thought some of them were ludicrous. But since I went freelance, I seem to spend a lot of time justifying why I am there, often to people who weren’t born when I started my career. Not that age has anything to do with it. It’s about respect for experience and skills.
It’s hard enough trying to establish your ‘USP’ as a freelancer or consultant. This goes to the heart of our insecurities as individuals and whether we have the confidence to believe that we each have something unique to offer. But perhaps it is worth trying to encapsulate your personal ‘offer’ in a short phrase that you could use as a job title. Even if no one else knows.
It will be harder if you have a portfolio of things that you do. Marci Alboher is a lawyer-turned-journalist/speaker/writing coach who knows that she introduces herself with an abundance of labels and punctuation. She does it on purpose, because she’s hell-bent on spreading the message that people should be unleashing their many identities. For her book, One Person/Multiple Careers, she interviewed hundreds of people living these lives, from a longshoreman/documentary filmmaker to a management consultant/cartoonist.
The plus point of taking this approach is that you can widen your appeal to potential clients. The downside is that you might appear a jack-of-all-trades. But I’d contend that one aspect of recruitment has never changed, whether that’s for full time or freelance employment and that is the fact that people ‘buy’ people. I’ve ended up doing a number of different projects for one client simply because we just worked well together.
But best of all, you get to decide each day which hat you are going to wear. For me, that’s the very best thing about not having a job title.