In 2016, I challenge everyone to look at their job title. When you do this, ask one simple question, “What does this title say about what I actually DO?”
For example, I started my HR career as a “Personnel Administrator.” Wow, Personnel. Yea, that was some time ago… Anyway, look at the last part. This suggests that I spent time implementing and running programs that were created by someone else. That’s pretty accurate. I was an entry-level professional without much experience in the field. I got experience managing turnover, safety, and employee relations. I didn’t really know how to come up with solutions at first so I learned by doing what other people said would work. Sometimes it did. Sometimes it didn’t. Do that again. Don’t do that anymore.
Many of my students seek titles with “Analyst.” Financial Analyst, Marketing Analyst. The key to these titles is “analysis.” You’ll be examining, exploring and scrutinizing data. Not by just looking at it the way you’d look at that stupid, “Find the Panda” picture. Guess what, real analysis = MATH! Struggling in statistics? You probably want to look into something else.
Most of my Grad Assistants are Accounting students and on their way to jobs with “Auditor” in the title. That means you will…wait for it….AUDIT other peoples’ activity. Specifically their financial activity. You may find things wrong. You will have to say something. Probably something they don’t want to hear. They may push back. Sometimes it will just be a reflex. You call them out, they push, you stare, they acquiesce. Most times it will be willful. They are not wrong. How comfortable are you with confrontation? Do you panic? Do you “bow up”? Or do you remain calm; steely reserve?
One of my best friends is the President of his company. That works for him. If I know anyone who truly “presides” over an operation, it’s him. He’s the face and personality of his organization. He not only leads and directs activity, but things like company culture and the office vibe come from him. And please, no jokes about what the “vice” President does…
At this writing I have almost 5000 contacts on LinkedIn. Just over half of them are students of mine. Most of them are either working in front line service jobs or interning. The non-students have a very telling list of titles. Professionals who develop new business, recruit new employees, provide service and support to customers, direct or manage the operations of a department and activities of their team, and sell. I want my students to look at the titles of professionals. Not so they can tell me, “this is what I want to BE,” but so they can ask them, “tell me about what you DO.”
To truly learn about someone’s career, you need to get past just defining words using the same word. Don’t stop when someone says they “analyze finances,” “coordinate marketing,” or “broker…stuff.” I want to know what you actually do. How much time do you spend talking to people and what are you trying to accomplish by talking to them? How much time do you spend reviewing financial statements, what are you trying to find out and what do you do with the information you find out? Why do you do this, how do you do that, why is it important?
In UCFs College of Business we ask, “what do you want to do?” rather than what you want to be. Why? Simple, it’s a better question. Asking what you want to do rather than be speaks to the actual definition of a career; a series of job duties over the span of one’s lifetime. A job is defined by a title. But a career is defined by a lifetime of action.