During the run up in the dot com era, PR and Ad agencies in particular were handing out V.P. titles to anyone who was over 25 and who could put a cogent sentence together. Unfortunately, many still do that, but you have to at least be heading closer to 30. I don’t know of another industry that does this. But I digress.
What’s happening now is that the willy-nilly dissemination of inflated titles is giving way to the ad hoc creation of titles that never existed. The other day, I saw someone had the title of Chief Officer of Ah-Ha’s. This brings to mind someone wandering the halls, deep in thought and suddenly realizing the world is round – “Ah ha,” they exclaim… and the company feels better for it. Probably not the intention, but that’s the image.
This all came to my attention after reading an article about this trend for titles to be more descriptive of what a person actually does. One woman mentioned in the article who helped counsel companies and employees about death titled herself the Doyenne of Death. Unfortunately, doyenne is one of those words near death and in need of some resuscitation and explanation. I believe art museum docents know what a doyenne is, but they may deny it.
The crazy thing is the woman who chose said title was a former PR professional. Probably should have kept her day job since most of the people she was selling this service to didn’t have a clue what a doyenne was and were therefore in need of some additional explanation. But she was evidently so enamored with the title she wasn’t going to give it up.
This is evidently another one of those trends that’s being driven to a large extent by Millennials. There seems to be a significant dissatisfaction in this age group with your standard titles that have been around for what 100 to 150 years. Can’t say as I blame them. Forbes even had a list in an article in 2014 titled "The 21 Most Creative Job Titles." This included:
- VP of Misc. Stuff – does a little of everything at Quicken
- Director of First Impressions – receptionist at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Director Ethical Hacking – a position at Predictive Systems that identifies Web and network vulnerabilities
- Master of Disaster – helps government authorities access information during calamities, MapInfo Corp.
- Crayon Evangelist – oversees company graphic-design at InteQ Corp.
- Chief Instigator – founder of Astro Studios
Much of this reminds me of how last names came to be as a way to distinguish the average Joes from one another a thousand or more years ago. Joe the Farmer eventually became Joe Farmer, Joe Cutter, or Joe Smith.
You can see where I’m going with this, right? At what point do new titles created today become part of a person’s name in an effort to gain even more individuality in a world where the population is now approaching seven billion? Just as language is evolving with the proliferation of digital shorthand, so might our identities as we struggle to define ourselves and our abilities in an ever-changing world.
For the time being, I’m okay with my name. And for anyone who wants to know, Heinrich means “ruler of the house.” Someone should tell my wife.