If you could choose your title, what would it be?

By Katy Imhoff

Superman, Spiderman, Batman—they’re all superheroes but these three have one other great thing in common: they chose their own titles. These self-reflective titles give us insight on who they are—one is a teenager accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider, another is a grown man haunted by childhood traumas with a penchant for darkness, and the last combined a symbol from his own planet and Lois’ nickname for him to create his alternate identity. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could choose your own title too?

Beyond the sheer fun of coming up with a name like “King of Code” or “Mistress of Marketing”, a number of studies have shown there are several tangible benefits to choosing your own title.

Benefits of choosing your own title:

  1. Reflect specific value: The title assigned to you on your first day in a new position may not reflect the unique value you bring to that role. Particularly in smaller organizations, employees are often multi-faceted and contributing more than their title might suggest. For instance, if your official title is “Jr. Developer” but you also spend time interfacing with clients to solve their problems, you might find the title “Code and Customer Caretaker” more fitting.
  2. Unforgettable: Have you heard of Astro Teller, Google’s Captain of Moonshots? Now you have, and you probably won’t forget him any time soon. With a unique title like Teller’s, it’s easy to stand out in a sea of similar professionals.
  3. Creative & self-reflective: We all have the capacity to be creative, though some of us have yet to tap into our true creative potential. Choosing your own title is an exercise in creativity but, more than that, it’s a great way to introduce individuality to your office culture. When you select your own title, you’re expressing your identity rather than trying to fit an overly generalized mold of what an employee with your title should be doing. This allows for a unique kind of creative freedom and emotional satisfaction you’ll love.
  4. Reduce emotional exhaustion: Not all jobs are emotionally exhausting but when they are are, selecting your own title can be a relief. A recent Make-A-Wish Foundation study found that self-reflective job titles reduced their emotional exhaustion. These high stress positions exist outside of the non-profit world too and if having a more jovial title can provide a little relief, why not let employees choose them?
  5. Discourage hierarchy: More and more startups are refusing to use the word “boss”, opting instead for a flat company structure. This opens up the office to increased collaboration and spreads a sense of camaraderie and importance to every employee. Allowing employees to choose a title that reflects their own unique skillset, rather than setting them apart in a hierarchical “Jr.” to “Sr.” to “C-level” scale, can aid in this kind of office restructuring.
  6. Increased sense of security: Let’s face it, rose-colored glasses aren’t working as well as they used to and employees everywhere are wiser about how unreliable their job futures really are. In an uncertain market place, allowing employees to choose their own title improves psychological feelings of safety and security. These feelings are not only comforting and beneficial for mental health, they may result in less insecurity all around. This means less job-hopping on your resume and less employee turnover for your employers!

Okay, you’d love to choose your own title but where should you start? The process is simpler than you’d think (that is, if your boss is cool and goes along with it) but there are a few things you should keep in mind when you’re selecting your brand new title.

Tips for choosing your own title:

  1. Present the idea to your boss: Maybe you have a boss that’s as excited about this idea as you are, or you’re the CEO of a company who is eager to implement this fun new policy. If so, skip to the next tip! For those of you who have to make a case for choosing your own title, set aside a time to discuss the idea with your boss. Bring in the research and numerous articles written on the benefits of this policy and see what they think. If they’re not receptive, at least you tried! You can be the Duke of Dollars in your own little world, or start looking for a job where the boss is more receptive to creative new business ideas. Decide what’s most important to you!
  2. Get a supportive group together: If your company lets you choose your own title, congratulations! But just because they allow for more creative, self-reflective titles doesn’t mean everyone in your office will be on board. Get a group of coworkers who love the new policy together and brainstorm your title ideas. You can go with a theme or help each other decide what strengths your title should highlight. Others will see how much fun you’re having and follow your lead. Trust me, this policy is more fun if it’s inclusive.
  3. Avoid arrogance: Yes, fun titles like Super CEO and Best Banker Ever are tempting, but they miss out on one of the main benefits. Choosing your own title can simply be about fun, but allowing ego to direct your decision may result in a title that doesn’t reflect your individual value. Why are you the best? If it’s because you never let an error slide past you, focus on your detail-oriented strengths and incorporate that into your title.
  4. Put it into context: Certain professions have the way they customarily do things and they insist on 100% professionalism at all times. If you’re in a business like that, getting your clients to call you the Code Collaborator may not go over well. Maybe you need to implement dual titles, keeping the more serious title for documents and clients while implementing fun titles in your office. Make compromises on this policy when the situation warrants but know that not every industry needs to take themselves as seriously as they currently do. Dare to be different, as long as it isn’t detrimental to your business!
  5. Have fun with it!: Read these tips, take them in, but at the end of the day have fun with it! Part of the psychological benefits you get from choosing your own title come from that feeling of fun and whimsy that these titles infuse into your everyday. Don’t forget to have fun!

Has this post convinced you that you need a creative, self-imposed title of your own? What would it be?