Some Job Titles Decoded — Advice for Job Hunters

…a list of titles and words from the world of the office that you should not take at face value…

One of the many ways our education system fails to prepare young people for the world of work is in understanding the importance of job titles: that is, having an important title is a career end itself, while not necessarily having any relation to your compensation, and almost certainly not straightforwardly describing the nature of your work…

With the following, I hope to save newcomers to the employment market from being misled by some of the more obvious examples of titles and keywords in recruitment ads and job descriptions that actually mean exactly the opposite of what they say…

We begin at the bottom:

  • Job titles with “Executive” generally mean junior employee;
  • Most job titles with “Manager” mean an Executive who has been in the job a while without being actually promoted… (the word “Senior” must be added for it to possibly to mean someone on a rung of the management ladder; and “Head of ——” also means an actual manager in a situation where the original junior “Manager” stayed too long and was useless so they had to bring in another junior “Manager” and use up the title “Senior Manager” on the older employee to avoid having to fire him or give a pay rise);
  • “Senior Sales Manager” is a salesperson with high targets and pressure, but not enough resources to hire any more sales staff for him to manage or be senior to;
  • “Business Development Manager” means you are just a salesman: you are not developing a business, and not managing anything except your salary expectations;
  • “Account Manager” means a customer support person whom management wish could be a salesperson, and may berate for not being a salesperson, but are not willing to pay or train as a salesperson; and needless to say has nothing to do with either accounts or management;
  • “Consultant” may conjure up images of senior doctors or overpaid management gurus: on the contrary, it means a person who processes new customers but who is too hopeless to be called a salesperson and has not stayed in the job long enough to be given the more cushy work in customer support;
  • “Vice President of —-” means an executive, i.e. a nobody, in a company that is large, bureaucratic, and has budgets for even junior minions to have business cards printed;
  • “Chairman and CEO” on a business card means this is a one-man company where this one man is probably overworked and definitely unpaid;

Looking at the top:

  • “Chief Executive” is one of the senior people who never actually execute anything themselves, but not actually the chief of them (which is the Chairman, so called because he is only rarely found actually sitting inside the offices of the organization he leads, and if he must do so, a very expensive chair must be provided);
  • “General Manager” means the most senior person with specific (not general) knowledge of the people and processes, and as such he must actually work inside the company (yes work — not just manage): above him are Directors, who may occasionally express agreement with or criticism of what he is doing, but never actually provide any direction;
  • “Finance Directors” are not actually directors, but just senior accountants who have to be paid as much as directors so they stay discreet; and if they are in a good mood and you happen to ask the right questions, they just might give you pointers about how you can direct your own finances;
  • A “Commercial Director” is someone hired with the wishful thinking that his prior connections, or at least aura, might boost the business… i.e. a purely passive idea not involving directing any commerce; also note he does not direct commercials, which is a pity because that might help sales;

A closer look at modern jobs in Analysis and Data:

  • “Business Analyst” means someone who is involved with making uninformed guesses about software specifications, not someone who analyses businesses in any way;
  • “Technical Business Analyst” in a job ad just means the previous analyst was discovered to be too dumb; a similar inference can be made when any job ad includes the word “Trusted”;
  • Less involved with reality is the “Business Change Analyst”: someone required when management need to import some readymade business school theories (not analysis) to justify why nothing is changing and, for the good of the business, illustrate why it should not change;
  • Regardless of intentions, a “Business System Analyst” can never do any analysis either, because this title is only used when a business has absolutely no working systems;
  • A “Support Analyst” is someone who simply transfers customer problems to actually intelligent people who are (thus) not allowed to talk to customers, who then guess what the problem is and pass back a solution, which is passed back to the customer with no analysis or support having occurred;
  • A “Data Analyst” is someone who enters and processes information that is too unsystematic and unstructured to be called data, and who of course is not actually supposed to analyze any of it;
  • “Data Scientist” is a job title made up by executives in HR who already think Data Analysts must be smart because they say things like “pivot” and “sequel”, so need an even more boffin-sounding description for the people who are so scarily smart they create those processes that ensure Data Analysts are busy but do not have to analyze anything;
  • A job ad for a “Solution Architect” means that the organization already has solutions which are not working, has no clue how to define what’s going wrong or decide if it is important, and therefore hopes to find someone who can help by ‘architecting’ a well-structured problem; in some cases, the problem gets understood a little bit and turns out to be so bad that they will hire “Insight Analysts”: i.e. people deliberately hired at a lower level so that they have no chance of analyzing anything, and are certainly not in danger of having any insights;
  • Ads for “Business Architect” suggest that things have finally collapsed from a lack of business, and so need demolition and cleanup rather than architecture; Likewise job ads mentioning “Reliability”, “Compliance” or “Security” indicate the respective disaster has already happened and needs cleanup, or cover-up.

Some notable doublespeak professions…

  • “Human Resources” departments do not treat people as humans, yet are also incapable of taking a resource point of view in any part of the business except office plants and biscuits;
  • “Logistics” have less to do with logic than with heavy lifting and cosy relationships with counterparts in shipping companies;
  • A “Headhunter” doesn’t actually hunt for people, but rather sets-and-forgets job ads which passively attract those who are hunting for a job;
  • “Graphic Designers”, if you are lucky, are good at either graphics, or design, never both, often neither;
  • “Project Managers” are recruited by companies which simply can’t get stuff done, and imagine it’s just a matter of methodology, while actually it is a matter of weak or negative management plus insufficiently capable or motivated staff: thus, the companies attempting to implement project management by directly hiring project managers are the ones least able to take any such methods seriously, let alone put them into practice: nevertheless, they can now say they are doing project management, see “Champion” below.
  • Lastly, a specific personal favourite: “Life Actuary” — a career focused on considering hypothetical possibilities around death;

Further important modern keywords:

  • “Business Intelligence” means presentation of summarized data in a cute format for managers to make them feel like they understand things and are in control, which they don’t and aren’t, because they are not intelligent and are not businesspeople;
  • “Agile” is included in job ads to mean “this time we want a programmer who actually produces working software”: in other words, the ideal candidate will be reliably sedentary, hopefully too unfit to be tempted to run around “engaging” “stakeholders”*;
  • * “Stakeholders” do not hold any stake unless you are foolish enough to give them one: which you will regret and want those stakes back in order to drive through their hearts;
  • Job ads asking for someone “Entrepreneurial” mean that the organization long ago moved away from being in any way entrepreneurial — so far away, in fact, that they have already ceased growing and have pondered this problem for enough years to consider the problem is a lack of entrepreneurialism, of course not actual entrepreneurialism, but whatever undefined, undiscovered qualities (such as luck) allowed the business to be born in the first place; needless to say, the job of the hired person will not have any aspects remotely resembling entrepreneurship, but it won’t matter because anyone actually entrepreneurial would never apply for this job in the first place;
  • “International Sales” in a job title means the company only sells domestically and is vaguely hoping that adding one new manager will be sufficient to change that;
  • A “Champion” is either someone who has to pretend to care about something because nobody actually cares but we know we ought to pretend to care, or someone who actually does care about something that nobody wants and is too annoyingly vocal about it, and so has been given a title to make it look like the organization is doing something but in fact will just allow this person to continue talking to himself and later have to accept sole responsibility for the lack of any positive progress;
  • A “Czar” of something merely expresses the big organization’s wish that “something ought to be done”, while that something is not currently defined or under anyone’s control, let alone going in the direction it should be, and quite possibly there are lots of people opposed to any control being gained over it: therefore, autocratic and centralizing management approaches are the least likely to gain the desired results, and anyway, nobody would ever actually give the Czar any power;
  • Job descriptions calling for a “rock star” mean that they require someone studious and hardworking, but flexible enough to do a number of different jobs in one, and most importantly this person must be meek enough not only to put up with that situation over the long term, but continually deliver value far beyond what they are being paid… i.e. the complete opposite of a real rock star;
  • “Awesome” in a job advert means you must remember to wear thick-framed glasses to the interview, and before accepting the job, consider that this online business has not been around long enough for the employees to realize that their only business advantage is expensive interior design;
  • The word “gravitas” in a job ad means the company is dead serious about finding someone with a proven track record of those universally acknowledged leadership characteristics of having a stick up their ass, brown-nosing senior management, and being a sociopathic biotch to underlings.

Any further ideas or contradictions? Why not tame your big data and facilitate the delivery of autonomous vertical documentation, i.e. write your own damn article.

@georgebaily