Job Titles, Overtitling and Undertitling | How Ash from Army of Darkness Was Spot On

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Ahh, the classic quote from Ash in Army of Darkness (watch the video clip above if you don’t know what I’m referring to!) I’m a big horror movie fan and this quote always cracks me up… And Bruce Campbell delivering the line makes it even better. So why the video clip? Well, I had a great conversation recently with several internet marketing professionals about job titles and I thought this clip was a good example of overtitling (more on that later). The question I posed was this, “Does a big and fancy job title hurt you or help you down the line?” And, does it even effectively communicate what you actually do on a regular basis? Recruiters and HR professionals deal with undertitling and overtitling all of the time and I figured I would give my 2 cents on the issue.

Let’s start off with some basic definitions:

The definition of overtitling is holding a job title that is too senior for what you do and the level of experience you have. I believe smaller companies and agencies do this all the time… They want to attract and retain top talent, so they hand out big job titles.

As you might expect, the definition of undertitling is having a job title that is too junior for what you do and your level of experience. Larger companies that have a steep hierarchy developed by HR professionals tend to undertitle. “I’m sorry Joe, but our professional blueprint for job titles says that you have 3 months to go before I can give you the title of “Director”. I know you just generated $20MM in revenue for us across multiple channels, but our HR folks say it’s no go. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen this happen to people.

So, as Ash clearly demonstrated with the “Duke” in the video clip above, his overtitling wasn’t going to help them out in their given situation, right? “OK, you are so powerful that you need multiple fancy titles, but you’re still in a heap of trouble!” :-) BTW, if you enjoy horror films and haven’t seen the Evil Dead trilogy, I highly recommend it! Sam Raimi is a genius… And more importantly for you entrepreneurs out there…watch the making of the Evil Dead and learn how he dropped out of college knowing he could create killer films (no pun intended). He did, and with big risk comes big reward. He’s got serious moxy. Now back to job titles…

A Quick Lesson In Humility…

Early in my career, I ended up golfing with an executive at my company and we had paired up with 2 other gentlemen. If you golf, you know that usually by the second or third hole, the inevitable question pops up… “So, what do you do for a living??” I went through an elaborate explanation of what I did, being excited about the web booming and being part of it on multiple dimensions. Then, the executive I was playing with (who was also on the Executive Team no less), said quite simply, “I work in {enter the department name here} and I help our employees {enter the description here}”. What?? Dude, you’re a big deal! ;-) His response left a big impression on me. He didn’t need to throw around his title and that he was on the Executive Team of a multi-billion dollar company. He just told people what he did. I think that’s a good policy to have…

Internet Marketers Define Your Job Titles

So, with web marketing booming and new channels always emerging, what job title do you want? Do you want a traditional job title like “Director of Internet Marketing”, which is fairly broad and can mean focusing on multiple channels or do you want a highly focused title like “SEM Strategist”? There are some people who have broad and deep skill-sets in online marketing, but I think most people breaking in now have a strong focus. I actually consider myself fortunate to have started when I did (1994), which enabled me to gain a broad skill-set in online marketing (based on starting when the web hit). However, what if someone mainly focuses on 1 or 2 channels or focuses on analyzing those channels, or selling products and services for a distinct channel. Which type of title makes sense? Should they include a highly focused title that clearly explains what they do? I’m not here to answer that question, but I think it’s extremely relevant in today’s dynamic marketplace.

Here’s a Recommendation for Developing a Job Title That Makes Sense

OK, here’s my 2 cents on job titles for internet marketers. Sit down and map out exactly what you do on a regular basis. Include all the details, whether you focus on web analytics or manage paid search or develop viral campaigns or focus on natural search. Seeing your job responsibilities on paper will help you get a firm grip on what you actually do. Then start some divergent thinking and jot down all the possible job titles. Then choose the top 5 for your given position. You can mix and match, expand on some titles, create new titles, etc. I highly recommend being as specific as possible and seeing how that sounds… I’m not saying that the position titled “Director of” or “VP of” should go away, but if you are a professional focused on a certain area of an industry, it will probably benefit you to have a focused job title. For example, I think Director of Social Media Marketing is focused enough… Once you have a few killer job titles, go to the leader of your respective organization and present them. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no? They might see your point and make a change. It could help you and others in your company down the line.