If you’ve been hitting the networking circuit or just generally hanging around it, you’ve no doubt been handed your share of business cards with wacky titles on them. The fad probably peaked in the late aughts, but it’s not totally gone, especially in tech and startup circles. For every Customer Service Manager there’s at least one Director of Delight and for every VP of HR, there’s a Chief Den Mother. I offer some useful translations, and convenient heuristic for stack-ranking the bogosity.

RockRockstar: could be an energy drink or could be a self-absorbed douche likely to die young of a drug overdose but not before trashing your hotel suite, carrying on lewdly with a mic stand, and spreading social disease among the fan base. Is this what you want running your QA department?

Guru (Devanagari गुरु) is a Sanskrit term for “teacher” or “master”, particularly in Indian religions. OK, this is actually sounding good, I need a good teacher on my team. But why are all the people with “guru” on their resume unwilling to impart any knowledge more detailed than a fortune cookie, even for a fat retainer?

Wizard: a shadowy figure with poor grooming habits and a penchant for “using or practicing magic derived from supernatural or occult sources” Might give you what you want, but is your soul really worth it for a few lines of bug-free python?

Ninja: A spy or mercenary? OK, I get that non-competes are stupid, but are we really down to hiring paid assassins? I’m pretty sure I can get my WordPress themes sorted out without hiring murderous thugs.

Evangelist: Unless they’re named Mark, Matt, Luke, or John, I’m pretty sure that your new Social Media intern is firmly relegated to the apocrypha. Also, if the four of them all saw the same thing and can’t quite agree on the facts, you might want to seek out more attentive team members.

I get it, they’re metaphors. But shouldn’t the people throwing them around have a better idea what they really mean?  I encourage all you wizards (isn’t that a high mucky muck in the KKK?), ninjas, evangelists, rockstars and gurus to try harder to explain your value props without using religious, spiritual or just plain gross imagery.

Paper, Scissors

How do you tell them without a scorecard? Get a scorecard, man! Here’s one:

  • Ninja stabs Evangelist with scissors
  • Evangelist stones Guru with rocks
  • Guru buries Ninja in paper (homework)

This way you’ll always know who’s on top of the bogus job title pile. You’re welcome.