My quest to be the most useful person in the room.

I've never been a big fan of job titles. They pigeonhole us. They're often paired with immediate assumptions of what someone can or cannot do. We often use them to tell people what we do and to try and find like-minded individuals, but instead we end up using cookie cutter titles to get information across quickly. Or worse, we come up with something silly that means nothing and shows off our cleverness (code ninja, anyone?). 

I try to be the most useful person in the room, but you can't use something like that as a title without sounding like a pompous ass.  

When I started my own consulting business I thought I could get around using titles. Instead, I've found I need to play the title game more. If I didn't, I'd never be able to find clients (and money for my livelihood is not a luxury). 

I use digital strategist and account planner as my definers. They're the closest thing to what I do for my clients -- but they're still poor choices.  

Account planners are the individuals most acquainted with what the consumer wants. They help clients fulfill the customer wants and desires. A good planner is essential when defining campaigns, positioning and communications for a client. A bad planner is justifying why they're in the room. A good planner is the most useful person in the room. 

A user experience designer, a customer advocate or a digital strategist can all be account planners. Those who have never heard of an account planner assume the planner is the project manager. I've been a project manager before, too -- and they are not the same thing. Both positions are challenging and can't be completed simultaneously, by the same person
 
At agencies, the digital strategist is often the vendor relationship manager or as someone who helps deploy tactics. At a digital shop, the digital strategist is thinking about how consumers are interacting with the communications we create (whether it's software, a advertising campaign or marketing on social media) and ensuring everything ties back to a business reason. The digital strategist is knowledgeable about trends in the industry and makes thoughtful recommendations based on those trends.

The account planner and digital strategist positions are similar. They both apply their knowledge of the client to what the consumer wants. The account planner title is descriptive of my skills in the advertising world. The digital strategist title is descriptive of my skills in the digital world.

The differences between the digital strategist and account planner are nuanced  If you’re going to hire me, you just want to know if I can get results.   

After playing around with my LinkedIn profile and resume for about a year and a half, I've come to the conclusion that changes to make titles more descriptive don't work. Your title needs to be findable and understandable at first glance by anyone who may hire you.

So, if changes to job titles don't work we should look at changing the descriptions of what we do to better explain how we will help the people who hire us. 

Instead of telling what we are about, we should show how we accomplish things. That's what employers want. That's what colleagues want. That's what clients want. 

My friend John was celebrating the skills of a few of his friends. He jokingly mocked up a LinkedIn screen that showed what people can do, not just a list of skills. 

Being the most useful - LinkedIn recommendations.jpg

At the same time, he also rephrased his skills to show how they will benefit his co-workers. He added new skills to his profile like:

  • Helping everyone chill the f__k out
  • Convincing obstinate clients
  • Fighting for users
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John has definitely helped me chill the f__k out so I endorsed him for it. But because the LinkedIn algorithm prefers common terms, it will be a while before John’s beneficial skills bypass tactical skills like:

  • Interaction Design
  • User Experience
  • Information Architecture
  • User Experience Design
  • Web Design
  • etc.,

I’ve followed John’s lead and I have added four benefits to my LinkedIn profile. These benefits were based on recommendations people have given me:

  • Pulling ideas out of team members
  • Creating communities around an idea
  • Measuring social media efforts
  • Rallying teams to create the best work possible


I’d like to see if these benefits can surpass the top 10 skills I have been endorsed for, since they don't say a lot about what I can do.  

  • Online Advertising
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Advertising
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Creative Direction
  • Online Marketing
  • Information Architecture
  • User Experience
  • Interactive Marketing
  • Website Creation

Will you vote for the benefits John and I have added to our profiles? I’ll be happy to help you think of benefits to add to your profile, too.