I remember when I got my first ever business card – Loans Officer, State Bank of New South Wales. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to show my parents and my friends. Then I got my first card with a Manager title and that was a big day too. Over the years I began to care less and now I don’t care much at all. Most of the time I don’t carry a business card and if I do it just has my name and contact details and never a job title.
It creates an interesting dynamic when you meet people for the first time. A case in point was a meeting I attended with five people where everyone there handed out their business cards. I reluctantly found a couple of my ‘no-title’ cards in my wallet – they were a bit crumpled and sad looking – and handed them over.
A curious look was exchanged between the two people that received my card. Almost immediately the guy with the ‘Partner’ card stopped the meeting, looked straight at me and asked what my role was in the organisation noting that my card did not have a title. I responded ‘ problem solver’ because I have always struggled to describe what I do every day. He frowned and said “but what level in the organisation are you”? I replied – “all levels, wherever the big problems are.” He smiled and said “good answer” and the meeting began in earnest.
It might feel good to have a big job title on a card but what does it really achieve? Does it demonstrate capability, expertise or even experience? Or is it just a statement that someone had, at some point in time, SUBJECTIVELY decided that you WERE the best candidate for the job you now hold?
Perhaps one of the ultimate tests is to describe what you actually do without referring to your job title. How would you explain your uniqueness, skill-set and achievements? How would you make your personal story compelling and interesting enough for someone to want to listen to you and ultimately do business with you? Doing this without using words like CEO, Partner, Director, Head of…, Manager etc. can be challenging because you have to describe yourself in a more a fundamental way focusing on who you are, what your represent and why that is beneficial to the marketplace.
Here is what I think. Job titles (and business cards) don’t mean much. They don’t convey whether you’re competent or not. They don’t convey your achievements, failures and life experience. They don’t tell what type of person you are and whether you have fire in your belly. And, most importantly, they don’t tell whether you can solve problems, create opportunities and help organisations get better. That’s why I don’t care about them and have ditched mine. In the end all that really matters is whether you can make a difference – whether you have a business card (or a fancy job title) or not…