There was a time when you could tell what a person did from their job title. In most companies it is still more or less that way.
But move outside the organisational structure into the world of the consultant, the self-employed or those seeking employment and it becomes a lot less clear what people actually do. The science of personal marketing has led to a slew of new, highly imaginative titles.
As individuals in the same profession seek to gain a competitive edge by differentiating themselves, creativity has abandoned credibility and morphed into absurdity.
To attract attention to your personal “brand” you must master the arts of exaggeration and embroidery. And don’t wait for others to call you an “expert” based on your demonstrated competence: be assertive and award yourself this designation.
If you are reading this on Linked In, this stuff is right before your eyes. Just scroll and you will find an amazing variety of titles and occupations.
Take for example, the “digital disrupter” and the “paradigm shifter”. The first sounds like an engine part, the second like something out of the X-Files. And then there is the “visionary entrepreneur” (clearly a cut above the ordinary entrepreneur), along with the “integrated marketing communications advocate”.
But these pale in comparison to the “transformation strategist” who is also a “life consultant”. And this is in addition to being a presenter, speaker, motivator and writer.
When you get to the profiles themselves, modesty is thrown to the winds and the adjectives move into high gear. Words such as “extraordinary”, “superb”, “remarkable” and “exceptional” are used liberally to describe the individual’s abilities.
but here’s the kicker: there are people on Linked In who advise us to do this. For example, don’t be boring and describe yourself as a car salesman: instead, go for “uber-successful creator and facilitator of motoring fantasies”. Imagine being a human resources recruiter or potential client having to sift through and evaluate this nonsense.
Sadly, much of this self-aggrandizement is rampant in the communications professions – marketing, public relations and corporate communications. It’s almost as if confusing the marketplace has become a basic marketing strategy; as if being clear and specific about what you do may work against you.
Individuals who do this are damaging their credibility, along with that of their profession. We all want to show our best face to the world, but too much makeup sends a signal to the wise: there may be less here than meets the eye.
So, tell us again: what is it you do? And this time cut the crap.
Richard Thomas is the Principal of Clarity Communication, a Barbados-based corporate communication practice. He is also a founding board member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Barbados Chapter.