Your Job Title: What’s in a Name?

“Late last summer, I traveled to San Francisco to give a talk at a conference on corporate communications. There, one speaker identified herself as a corporate storyteller... Next up was a story strategist…Batting third was Robert Scoble, a futurist at a cloud computing company called Rackspace... I don’t mean to judge — my own job is hardly less opaque. I am the vice president for content at Contently…” S. Slaughter New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key


Excerpt: Your Job Title Is … What? By Sam Slaughter,  The New York Times

“Mr. Scoble showed slides of virtual reality headsets, and a device that looked something like a TV remote control that will provide detailed information about objects around you. You can aim it at a box of Cheerios, or even a dog, he told the audience… I have had meetings with a brand ambassadors (a bit like celebrity endorsers, but with more tattoos).

Credit- A Dilbert Book (Dilbert Collections) Amazon

Credit- A Dilbert Book (Dilbert Collections) Amazon

I have coffee with thought leaders (those with “authority” in a given field) and customer happiness managers. (Your guess is as good as mine, but I assume that it used to be called customer service.)

Credit- A Dilbert Book (Dilbert Collections) Amazon

Credit- A Dilbert Book (Dilbert Collections) Amazon

Job titles as we traditionally know them — vice president for marketing, or East Coast sales manager — emerged in the 1930s as a way to define roles in organizations that were becoming increasingly complex, said Peter Cappelli, the director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. That started to change in the 1990s, when employees began to be concerned with how their job titles might be interpreted.

Photo- Barclays-slideshare

Photo- Barclays-slideshare

As for myself, I will admit that I have drawn my fair share of Venn diagrams on whiteboards and had plenty of meetings about meetings — none of which would have helped my mom understand my job at all. I think the vice president of the content is like something from ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ she told me a few weeks ago.”

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ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and  Word Map from  Education Oasis for assistance.Word Map Education Oasis

  1. The job was to humanize narratives.
  2. Both used pictures of cave paintings in their presentations.
  3. The point was to emphasize humankind’s ancient connection to the craft.
  4. Mr. Scoble showed slides of virtual reality headsets.
  5. My own job is hardly less opaque.
  6. We help companies understand the changing media landscape.
  7. I’m personally branding myself according to what I want to do.
  8. My younger brother is a lawyer, with no such issues.
  9. These titles emerged in the 1930s.
  10. In the 1990s  employees were concerned with how their job titles might be interpreted.

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students are to circle or underline the correct word or phrases from the article. This exercise reinforces students’ attention on words that have been introduced in the reading. Have them skim the article to check  their responses. Students should also find the meanings for all unknown words.

“There was a tin/time, Dr. Cappelli said, when/while employees actually/actual had two sets of busy/business cards: one that identified/identity you within the company, and another for purple/people on the outside.

Employment is ever more fragmented/fragrance, freelance/freehand, entrepreneurial and digitally/digital focused, and there are plenty of jobs that never existed/extinguish before. In many cases, the roles are changing faster than the titles can even revolve/reflect.

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. This days, two business cards would hardly be enough.
  2. My boss was having a hard time figuring out the titles.
  3. They start small, with little to no structure.


  1. The company is founded in 2012.
  2. In that kind of environment, a title seems like an afterthought.
  3. Mystifying job titles have spread far beyond the start-up universe.


  1. Now, certainly, there is a bit of willful fakery at work.
  2. I have known a intern who worked as the head of marketing.
  3. There is a whole universe of solo practitioners.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  two statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“There was a time,when employees actually had two sets of business cards: one that identified you within the company, and another for people on the outside…These days, two business cards would hardly be enough. Employment is ever more fragmented, freelance, entrepreneurial and digitally focused, and there are plenty of jobs that never existed before.”

“Yet it is also true that changing titles reflect real shifts in how businesses operate and, let’s be honest, a very real need to reimagine traditional roles, especially in jobs that involve managing people or that require creativity…”

2. If you are presently working, what is your job title? Does your  title  accurately  describe your duties?

3. If you could change your title, what would it be?

4. With your group, create a list of job titles for various jobs. The list can be funny or serious.


Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about job titles from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.


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