Titles Don’t Always Correlate to Worth or Merit

As I’m going through this whole post-graduate process, I must admit being fascinated and saddened by a certain aspect of it all.

Contemporary society is really hung up on professional titles indeed.

Some people may ask – so what are you crying about? Isn’t the goal to be the best you can be? Well, certainly. For those who have attained undergraduate and post-graduate education, it’s a daunting prospect. Unless you are cutting corners by paying in cash or kind to get through the process, higher education is very transformative. The sleepless nights, anxiety over assignments, the idiot classmates, the student loans, and juggling other real-world responsibilities simultaneously – it is a struggle to finish. But I suppose being able to strut across a stage in a cap and gown to collect your new title is a nice feeling. But let’s be practical – many people embark on the title collecting journey to improve their abilities to take care of themselves and their families.

I suppose the source of the commentary isn’t about my own achievement, but the change in treatment towards me based on the new-found title.

I’ll compare both my job search experiences to further highlight the point. When on the employment search as a lower level service provider, you had to really earn your stripes. Some of the work sites I’ve been in really treat people in very different manners based on their current titles. I know that such things have always existed, but in 2017 it still feels very stark. Even as I was building experience, I’d go on interviews and perspective employers would look at my qualifications with some serious skepticism. I’ve even worked with other medical and mental health professionals actively question my professional chops based on a perception of both my job title and individual skill set.

So yes, I figured if title gathering is the name of the game to “get ahead”, I’d best get on with getting a few for myself.

In doing the job search this time, some of the interactions were vastly different. I saw more of the treatment of “belonging at the table” and a less questioning of my professional chops. It was more so about a shift from a determining a fit based merely being qualified to seeing if there was a true match in terms of skill set to the needs of the position. Yes, some of the same qualification issues came up (licensure, etc.), but the approach was very different. It just saddened me as one the one hand, the difference is well deserved. On the other hand, as someone who did direct work, it just makes me question how management values certain roles.

The one thing that’s struck me here is if I ever get to be in a position of influence professionally, I just feel having an organization focused on employee growth is essential across ALL POSITIONS. Social services is a meat grinder, frankly, that takes a strong emotional toll on all service providers. Sometimes, those in management tend to fall into the trap of forgetting that everyone in an agency is a service provider, regardless of their actual title or educational qualifications.

I had a colleague who reached out to an old supervisor about a potential collaboration offer recently. She was initially rebuffed, even to the point where the old supervisor stated that the point person of the effort should reach out to them directly. It was only after the supervisor realized that his former charge WAS the key contact person did attempts to reconnect were made – my colleague already had moved onto other service provider agencies. That’s a great example of still viewing people from the lens of a previous position, even when things have vastly changed.

So, titles aren’t my thing; just a necessary tool to make a life in trying times. Maybe my title aversion has cost me some unique opportunities. But, I like the title of life-long leaner best of all.

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