Title Fight

TitlesSitting in a meeting in a Czech university when you don’t have a PhD feels like the academic equivalent of being welcomed to the adult’s table. We get introduced to all of our colleagues with PhDs as though we are meeting them for the first time. In reality, we have bought them shots at a bar, consoled them after bad breakups, and stolen olives for them at the departmental Christmas party.

Still, the tone of the introductions is such that we meager ones should stand in awe of these people, for they have a title that we do not. A PhD. And, as I sit there, mentally cradling my Masters Degree, I wonder where this obsession started.

The Czechs love their titles, so this is far from an isolated case of title entitlement. When a PhD is introduced to students at a conference or a symposium, sometimes the non-PhD holder on the dais will be forgotten altogether. It’s not just the PhDs, either. Nearly every title a Czech person enjoys surrounds his name like a barricade of academic sandbags. They are on business cards, front doors, and mailboxes. On all of my documents, pay, and student assessment sheets, I am Damien Galeone Mgr BA. I am introduced as Magister Galeone. Sometimes, it can be rather bulky.

Doktor Profesor Milan Novak Phd PhDr DPD MD Mgr Ing BS STUD

My doctor’s nurses refer to him as Pane Doktor – Mr. Doctor.

I once had dreams of becoming a Mr. Doctor. I imagined myself sitting behind a desk with a pipe and just viewing my MD, or, depending on the fantasy, my PhD. I never really considered what the degree would entail or what I’d do with it after I got it. Nevertheless, there it hung on my wall, surrounded by accolades, pictures, and an honorary doctorate from some college that rejected me for undergrad. Sometimes the fantasy included a person coming in the room to admire it with me, sometimes this person straightened my degree, sometimes this person stuffed my pipe.

But then college happened. And I realized that I was not suited to school which ended in an MD. I believe that many of us have had to face this difficult reality in one way or another. Gosh, I’d love to be a doctor, but I just ate a suppository, so maybe it’s not for me. Maybe, I should look into that English department.

So, as I left my meeting as simple Magister Galeone, I remembered that this title envy game was probably global. But if you have a job, you have to be called something. And not everyone becomes an MD or a PhD or even an Mgr. I was curious what titles my friends from high school and college had.

LinkedIn welcomed me to the wondrous and disturbing land of titles. There are some I couldn’t say aloud in one breath, like a Results Driven Business Development and Operations Leader or Manager of User Experience and Quality Assessment Organizer at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Some of these titles seemed intent on jazzing up an otherwise boring job. Isn’t a Patient Information Officer a person who gives patients information? By this rationale, are we going to start calling people who work at an airport information desk a Flight Information Officer? Isn’t this just a tiny bit misleading? Is a Customer Response and Solution Specialist a fancy way of referring to someone who works at a customer service call center.

Where’s George Carlin when you need him?

I rolled my eyes at the perceived self-importance of it all. Yes, that’s right, a guy who is called Magister on a daily basis rolled his eyes at self aggrandizing. Is this how we cope with having dull jobs? Is a waiter going to become a Food and Beverage Supply Chain Delivery Expert? Is my local cashier going to demand that I call her an Edible Materials, Feline Care, and Toiletry Retail Manager?

It soon dawned on me that I didn’t understand what most of these jobs were. I found this counterintuitive to LinkedIn’s goal, which is, I thought, to link up potential clients, employees, and professionals. How do I know if I need a Digital Retail Connector if I don’t know what one is? Maybe it’s increasingly important and in the next few years everyone will have a mechanic, a doctor, a lawyer, and a Digital Retail Connector.

While I have no idea what a Decision Support Analyst is, if it is someone who can talk me through post-decision anxiety, then I need one. This is also true of a Utopian Research Administrator and an Aesthetician and Lash Extension Expert. Because if there is one thing I need it is longer lashes and if there is one place I need to get them, it’s in Utopia.

Among these titles were the occasional doctor, dentist, and attorney. But how did the others get their titles? Do these titles represent long-held ambitions and goals? Did Benjamin Sotters need an advanced degree to become a Customer Engagement Manager? Did Scott Czarnecki dream as a boy of being a Service Delivery Manager? Nevertheless, I was so happy to see that Dennis Gilmore had reached his lifelong goal of becoming a Portfolio Administrator and that Mike Simpson finally became an Audience and Development Assistant program. He’s always wanted that.

As I reach for the Aleve, it occurs to me that soon there is going to be a title for someone who develops, creates, sorts, and gives titles to people. But as usual, the internet was one step ahead.

Jennifer Santiago: Title Specialist.

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