In this age of blurring of role titles and fusing or expanding job descriptions, it’s important to remember: titles matter and using them incorrectly can be a real issue.
When I arrived in London armed with my great experience from RTÉ and a pretty exemplary track record from university, I thought I would sail into new opportunities. I foreseen roles being landed at my feet like the steps of the career ladder I was intent of ascending. What I stepped on to though was a shaky structure with lots of unnecessary noise and interruption, specifically relating to job titles.
For example – when I was in Dublin in the national broadcaster, my job title was simply ‘multi-media journalist’. Then, arriving in London, I was lost amidst job postings calling out for ‘content creators’, ‘online content managers’, ‘digital storytellers’ et al. Was I missing something? Should I have been calling myself this all along? In fact, I’m sure I didn’t get interviews or job offers because I wasn’t using these terms others seemed to be. I was in the content creation sphere, I was telling stories through visual and written media and I was managing the flow of published work from both myself and others. But as far as I knew I was just a journalist and all of that should have been implied in the title.
My area of expertise is the food and drink industry and I come across this issue there, too. The word ‘chef’ is bandied around like no one’s business. Though not meant with ill-intent, it’s so often attributed to people who happen to be associated with food – but only chefs can be called chefs. To be a chef you need training, qualifications and experience in professional kitchens. You need the hard yards put in, the war wounds worn proud and the skills clearly honed. There’s a big difference between a chef and someone who happens to cook, knows their way around a kitchen and lands in the food industry.
I blog for a living, running food blog GastroGays with my partner Russell whilst juggling writing and editing food and drink content freelance for clients. Russell and I appear on TV, radio and in print often, where sometimes it’s noted that we are ‘chefs’. We’re so quick to correct, for fear of confusing anyone. We’re not chefs and we would never profess to be; we’re home cooks. We taught ourselves everything we know. We absorb cookbooks in our sleep. Recipes are tried, tested and often fail spectacularly in our hands. Our kitchen is never, ever clean – there’s always some more dishes to do. We’re passionate home cooks and we’ve made great strides in our food knowledge doing that, but just don’t call us chefs.
Being precious about titles can be a little passé, I get that, especially as roles change and industries adapt to the modern age. But the basics should still stand. Specialists are indeed specialists, and deserve due prominence, but traditional titles stick for a reason. A chef is a specific and skilled role. Like a doctor, an accountant, an engineer. Like a journalist.