What’s your job? Italian job status v English job titles

When I was teaching English I had some problems with work and jobs in particular. And, by that, I mean the translation of the meaning. As with other things the exact translation doesn’t always work. But, when I asked people ‘What’s your job?’ (a standard question with beginners), the reply, in Italian, was, invariably, Impiegato or Impiegata (depending on whether the reply was from a man or a woman) and this means employee or clerk.

Now, I couldn’t (and still can’t to some extent) quite get my head round this. Most people, when you ask what they do, reply with one of those answers. This is generally so, even when I’m listing to the radio and someone phones in. Well, I think, finally, I’ve got it! Whereas in the UK and the USA, job titles are really important (and change often), here, the status of your employment is the key.

So, if you have full-time employment, with a contract, you are, of course an Employee (Impiegato/a). And this is the most important thing. What you actually do is less important. And, when people ask me what I do and I reply that I am a Project Manager, this causes some consternation because a) it is in English and b) it doesn’t tell you my employment status. It doesn’t say whether I am a consultant, temporary or full-time, with contract.

And I have learnt, recently that there are two other stages to go to reach the ‘top’. First there is Quadro (Manager). This gives one all the rights of the Impiegato plus a little extra. One example, here, is the right not to clock in (see this post and this one).

There must be others, apart from the salary, but I am learning, slowly. The next level is Dirigente (Executive). Again, this gives more benefits (someone mentioned health cover for the whole family but I’m not sure that would apply where I work) but also you lose the rights (not to be sacked easily) that the Impiegato and Quadro have.

I guess it’s much like the UK – except for this fact that the job title is not so important.

I really could do much better English lessons now that I’ve been living and working here for longer!

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