“That which we call a rose would smell as sweet by any other name.” Maybe. This could have been said by either Romeo or Juliet as they contemplated their lover’s surname, the name of a sworn family enemy.
I have been called many names, not always sweet. Cranky, curmudgeon, churl, are but some. Job titles have included junior to senior engineer, manager, consultant, specialist, and coordinator. None have really mattered much, for I have always thought of myself as a Civil Engineer, a title I earned by year’s of hard study. I paid my dues and am legally entitled in some jurisdictions to call myself a Professional Engineer, although in some places that would break the law for I have not paid my application fee there.
Which raises the question: what is in a job title? Some consultants won’t use the appellation Partner least it carry additional liability; they prefer Principal (or is it Principle?) To that you can add Junior, Intermediate, or Senior, depending on your split of the profits.
The job title I like best is on a signboard outside some cubicles at the local university: EMERITI. That is the Latin plural of emeritus which describes retired professors nobody knows what to do with. Other than give them a job title.
In proposals to mining companies to undertake professional work or provide services, the title in the organization chart and on the resume better correspond or questions arise. So my job title has flipped overnight as the proposal comes together. Right now to avoid offending bigger egos, I am called the Project Coordinator, which just means I have to keep everybody within budget, on schedule, and happy. And do any technical work nobody else finds glamorous.
Humans love categories; it makes it easy to think about and manage. So when a title change involves a salary category change, the fight to change title is intense. How many of those dreary annual reviews have focussed not on accomplishments but on reasons to change one’s title? Most I bet.
I have found there is seldom a one-to-one correspondence on a mine between title and power. The power lies in those who have the budget, not the title. The committee chairman may be more powerful because he writes the minutes and thus can recast history and future action. The Lead Technician can make or break your project if he delays your testing. As for the secretary–be on their wrong side and you never get near the boss. But does anybody have secretaries any more and is that still a concern with e-mails flying free and profuse?
So stop a minute; take a look at your business card; look at the sign on your door; delve into the last proposal in which your name appeared; check you pay-stub. Do you have the same job title on all? Does it matter? And if it does, take the weekend to concoct a new and more beneficial job title—or decide to regress to the simple and unchangeable. Enjoy.