June 10, 2011
You’re a what? Offbeat job titles can be memorable and effective -- or not
The Associated Press
Evangelist? Guru? Those are so stuck in the dot-com bust. These days, try “chief popsicle” or “public happy-maker.”
Job titles can spell success or failure, and the new century is generating a host of new and unusual ones. That’s important, consultants say, because a unique title really does give a person an advantage, and helps generate additional interest if the title is part of a job posting.
When people hear Rana DiOrio’s title, chief executive pickle, “They almost universally smile,” says DiOrio, the head of Little Pickle Press in Belvedere, Calif. “When asked why, I say it’s because I don’t take myself too seriously.”
“We get a lot of clients who want us to give them a name and make them an honorary employee,” says Felecia Hatcher, chief popsicle at Feverish Ice Cream in Miami. “It is really fun.”
Style vs. substance
There is a downside to embracing these non-traditional job titles. “It’s what the company and its people do that means the most,” says Michael Hess, CEO of Skooba Design in Rochester, N.Y.
“Chief happiness officer” or “director of delight” might attract attention, set an individual apart and even create a positive image to the customer. However, Hess says he would bet that “100 percent of customers would rather get their needs taken care of splendidly by a boringly named customer-service representative than get mediocre service from a cheerful and fun but less-effective ‘satisfaction advocate.’ ”
Sander Daniels is co-founder and director of user happiness at San Francisco startup Thumbtack.com. It wasn’t customers who questioned his sanity in choosing the latter title, he says: “My parents think the title is idiotic.” They liked an earlier title, when he was an associate at a law firm. “They thought that was much more respectable,” he says. “Now they’re worried I will never be able to get a ‘real’ job ever again with this new title.”
To ease his parents’ concerns, he hedged. “I use co-founder when the situation demands a bit more dignity, like with parents, friends [and] future job interviews,” Daniels says. “[I use] director of user happiness when the situation tolerates a bit more frivolity, like when promoting the values of our company to our employees and customers.”
Good on paper?
Mitch Kocen, assistant marketing manager for BAJobs.com in Campbell, Calif., says he’s seen growth in non-traditional job titles in the past two years. “The trends I’m seeing are all very recent,” he says, and those trends come with a downside: “It’s a huge résumé liability.”
Kocen advises those holding a cutting-edge job title to figure out what their “real world” job-title equivalent would be, and put that in parentheses in their résumé.
Charles Purdy, senior editor and career expert at Monster Worldwide Inc., a job-posting site, agrees that having a “quirky or unique title in the past may hurt your job search.”
Purdy gives this scenario: Someone working at an online magazine as a “word guru” applies for a job as an associate editor. A résumé scanner may be looking for the keyword “editor” in past jobs, but not “guru.”
Purdy says a more conventional job title will translate better to future employers on a résumé. But he also says that as long as a job title is accurately descriptive, even if a bit odd, it can be eye-catching.
“If you’re going to come up with a wacky title, choose one that doesn’t require you to add a long description of what you actually do all day,” Purdy says. “That’s going to hurt you when it comes to networking, both personally and for your company. It’s a fine line.”
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