I do research on financial topics, but calling myself a researcher might create the impression that I work in a lab and actually do meaningful work. I’ve written a few books and many articles, but calling myself a writer seems just a bit pretentious. Hemingway was a writer. Ayn Rand was a writer. I am a hack with a keyboard. I’ve tried calling myself a consultant, but either people ask me how long I’ve been out of work, or share that they’re in sales too.
I’m not alone in my dilemma. The descriptions of what many people do for a living has changed either because the duties of the job have changed, or due to title inflation, or maybe a little bit of both. Are you still called a reporter if you also write commentary on the news you reported? Should you still be addressed as an insurance agent if you also provide mutual funds to customers? And exactly what does a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner do, or are they the same thing?
To avoid unintentionally insulting anyone I’ve begin to refer to people in every walk of life as working Americans, but I fear even that term may take on some other meaning so I’m toying with the idea of calling everyone professionals.
Title inflation has been with us a long time. One of the first instances is when farmhands out West began calling themselves cowboys. It was a masterful piece of image building that created the mythology of our heritage. Somehow I can’t imagine singing “My heroes have always been farmhands”. But cowboys! That’s good marketing.
I’ve haven’t met a secretary in ages. I wasn’t aware that everyone that goes to work for a software company automatically gets an engineering degree. And maybe it was in the ‘90s when companies added “specialist” or “director” to every job description in the free world.
It isn’t that I’m against all these titles – you can call yourself potentate or swami because it’s all the same to me – but it makes it really difficult to figure out whom you’re really talking to and what they actually do. I think from now on when people ask me what I do I’ll be honest and tell them I’m really not sure, but I’m open to any suggestions they may have
Contrary to what his daughter might have told you, Jack Marrion wears slacks and sweater while doing his research.