All-Star Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul

In basketball there are five set positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. Rather, there were five positions. As data increases our understanding of sports MIT student Muthu Alagappan analyzed just one position – point guard – and found there was actually many “positions.”

When comparing data about [All-Star point guards] [Chris] Paul, [Steve] Nash and [Jason] Kidd, Alagappan found that Paul stood out as a defensive stopper and a midrange shooter, Nash shined as a skilled passer and expert at the pick-and-roll move, and Kidd excelled as a rebounder with some above-average post-up ability, whose shots came mostly from the three-point range. For three players who play the same position, that’s a highly divergent set of skills.

What applies to basketball players can also apply to the rest of us. Instead of “positions” many of us have job titles. Just like Alagappan uncovered more data, we now can discover more about one another beyond a title. I can look at your Behance profile, your blog, your LinkedIn  page and learn much more about you and your skill sets than a title could ever convey. Developer Michael Lopp believes that this is one of the reasons that job titles may soon be a relic of the past:

It’s these types of artifacts [like Twitter] that give me the beginning of insight into who you are. It’s by no means a complete picture, but it’s far more revealing than a bunch of tweets stitched together in a resume.

Titles, I believe, are an artifact of the same age that gave us business cards and resumes. They came from a time when information was scarce. When there was no other way to discover who you were other than what you shared via a resume. Where the title of Senior Software Engineer was intended to define your entire career to date.

  • Markus Wild

    As a basketball player I have to admit that my job title has only little to do with my “skillset”: I am center and I am long. But this superior fact hindered me developing different skills according to my natural talents. From day 1 on and without any knowledge about basketball they pushed me into the zone.
    Transfer this to the business area: I do believe that job titles hinder the growth of people more than they foster it.

  • theirmind

    “Titles”? Only “titles.” Can you show little ability to be important.

  • Ahmed Arshad

    Job titles wont go away. They’ll be needed in scenarios where you need to quickly professional introduce yourself to a recruiter or another professional.

    With that said, we shouldn’t let titles tight cast ourselves or others from growing into different areas of related and unrelated skill sets.

  • Ian

    I think you are missing the point of Job titles, they are just a quick and easy way for people to understand your role in the organisation. Eg. “Multimedia developer” is very different from “Payroll Clerk”.

    Many people don’t have time to look at all your social media sites/blogs etc.
    If 100 CVs fall on my desk, I want to quickly get a gist of their career. Looking at their job titles is an effective way of doing this far quicker than going to everyones blog.

    Also, when customers ring up, they can speak to who they want by saying “Can i speak to the creative director?” rather than “can i speak to the person who is responsible for xyz blah blah.”

  • Dana Leavy-Detrick

    While job titles are still the standard, the interesting thing is that the more creative we’re allowed get with them, the more harm we might be doing from a branding perspective when it comes to our resume. They’re important, but not as important as the context you provide underneath that focuses around what can do, and what you’ve done.

    And when you’re talking about an in-person exchange, it’s not even the norm anymore to be able to say “I’m a [fill in the blank],” when someone asks what you do. It’s more about focusing on the niche and the benefit, like “I design the interfaces and visual elements for mobile apps for a gaming company.” Either way, it’s an interesting argument, but I agree that they’re here to stay (for now).

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