What to know about job titles in Central Asia

What to know about job titles in Central Asia

So I have to say, one of the perks of working here in Central Asia is that you get some pretty cool job titles. And if there’s flexibility in your organization, you can take your pick. Unlike in America, where you would be laughed at for trying to take on a title “too big for your britches,” here nothing is too big! A few examples:


You would think this is a high-paid person who contributes an independent perspective, right? No. This is the lowest peon at Atameken* University, earning some $700 a month. Unfortunately, when the university reviewed outside candidates from the US, they actually marked down those professors who had consulting experience with Fortune 500 companies – why pay someone well who had only earned such low titles? (Job-seekers beware!).


So you would think – this person manages projects, right? No. They are slightly better than a consultant. They do stuff. Like, what they’re told. But they have no managerial authority.

Senior Manager

So… surely this person manages? Again, no. There are no meaningful supervisor responsibilities or ability to control schedules, projects, etc. I really really wanted this one because it sounds cool, but it got handed to a rather more vocal complainer instead. You have some responsibility for projects, but you still aren’t far from the bottom.

Department Head

Well, it really depends on how big the department is. If it’s a department of one, you’re not really, uhh, managing. If it’s larger, you might be, but your department may still come under another lateral department through the mysterious laws of organizational physics. Are you qualified? You might be, or it might just be a political appointment.

Everyone’s a Leader!

Department / Deputy / General Director

Must say, I’ve never quite figured this out. There’s a general director who is responsible for… stuff… at my friends job, that she never actually sees. Then there’s her department director, who does a helluva lot of work. My impression, though, is that the department director is several steps down from the general director, and not actually a part of the Directory Directors, the invisible team of C-Suite people here who are all politically connected. I am also, sadly, unlikely to ever be a Directory Director.


Furthermore, our school is run by sensible European types, and so I just have the title of Librarian right now. I definitely manage staff, but the title is more lowly than last year’s Manager of Reference Services title, which I got as a non-manager.

On the upside, I’ve gotten my name badge here changed over to Head of Libraries, so that’s progress. (One of my peers got E.L.Winkelstein,** Head of Drama Department, Head of English Department engraved on his. Title inflation. I copied him.)

Next, I’m angling for Library Director, or possibly Library Dignitary. I’m sure it’s fine that I’ve only got a few assistants, an intern, and a volunteer… I have two libraries to run and one hell of a workload… doesn’t that make me a director?

Finance Director

But then… I recently discovered that non-profits like the Ata* Educational Co., which I thought were run by the named leader for social benefit, are actually run by Finance Directors for the purpose of Saving Money. These people hold incredible power over whole organizations, from who gets fired in unrelated departments to which paper-clip line-items are approved on the budget, and thereby on how teaching and research gets done at all levels from childhood through graduate school. Those nominally charged with directing education have no meaningful authority. I have taken note: you do not mess with a General Director, Finance Director, or any other Central Asian called “Director.”

(I say this with all new-found and groveling respect, dear Directors.)

(But this is also why I hope to be known as Library Director, all-caps.)


Of course, I also like to see what other titles are possible. It’s like being in Queen Elizabeth I’s royal court and aspiring / backstabbing one’s way to be Second Handmaiden of the Bedchamber or something. There should be a master list of potential titles somewhere.

Anyway, a local uni currently has an Expert-Analyst position open. Coming out of a prior job search on the DC market, I found this intriguing. They want a senior level white dude, some policy wonk at AEI with a sketchy ‘government service’ past, one that gives self-important speeches about all the Places He’s Experted, right?

No. This requires exactly one year of experience and basic English. Apparently it’s for local report-writer girls. Pity. The title is brilliant.

Project Manager

Further down, I see the Expert-Analyst may be managed by the Project Manager. Quite a dull title, but it requires a Master’s degree and several years of analytic work experience. That may be on par for the American job market, but no word on whether this person actually manages projects or not.

My suspicion, though, is that they do not. There’s a General Finance Director of the Board out there somewhere who, umm, Directs Things, and the rest of the corporate pyramid is an elaborate mirage, a flat line below two or three oligarchic data points at the top. In fact, I’d argue this is exactly why we have so much freedom to invent important titles like Senior Manager and Expert-Analyst and apply them to our entry- and mid-level jobs: the titles don’t really matter.

(pic by cmartin82 on flickr)
Everyone’s a Manager!

And realizing that, I conclude that it’s fine to call myself a Head Librarian of the Directorate of Expert Library Analyst of Management of Project Completion of Libraries.

I can only hope it translates to something meaningful back on the U.S. job market (!).


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