How Much Does Your Job Title Mean To You?

 For some people, a lot. We’ve all encountered colleagues who are very concerned that their job title accurately reflects their contribution in terms of their skill level and position within the corporate hierarchy.   And then there are others who could care less what they are called, as long as they have meaningful work and commensurate compensation.

But does it really matter?  My answer is … it all depends.
Within large companies there can be a need for structure and hierarchy that job titles help sort out.  Individual visibility is less in a big company, so you may need a “badge of authority” to gain recognition for what you do and who you are.  Conversely, not getting the job title appropriate to the position can undermine your standing both inside your company and outside.

Things look quite different in the crazy, chaotic, always-changing environment of a small business start-up.  In those places struggling to become real companies, people often wear many hats.  The founder might be also the one sweeping up the floor at the end of the day.  What you are called doesn’t matter.  Everybody knows who does what.

A recent marketing project had me re-evaluating the thinking behind our job titles.  Going through a rebranding process and creating new business cards for everyone, gave us the opportunity to examine closely how people brand themselves. Some people elected to “choose” their own job title, outside the traditional bounds of specialist, manager, director, and VP.

You would probably expect this to happen because job titles have tended to become more complex as the type of work people do becomes increasingly specialized. Fewer people now do jobs that can be adequately captured in a single word. Also, in this downturn, many people have taken on multiple roles and acquired multiple skills that a single limiting job title does not quite convey.  

For example, in the MATRIX titling world, “project managers” have become “engagement managers”. Engagement management includes project management, but expands its focus on providing the organization’s enterprise-wide capabilities and services to internal and external customers from conception to delivery.   “Social media specialist” gave way to “online community manager” because social media are just the tools we use to get to the ultimate goal of building online communities who derive value from their association with us.   A “receptionist” greets people, but our “front desk coordinator” sets up meetings, answers questions, plans events, and many other things.

I didn’t fit into any of the conventional marketing pegs, so chose “senior marketing strategist” as my title.  I liked it because it sounded like I was thinking up new things all the time.  My boss said, okay, why not?   I have never have been questioned about it since.

According to an HR director I know, titles still serve an important role for job seekers as well. A job title helps identify who you are, a component of how you market yourself.   “When I first look at a resume, I look at where the candidate worked and what their job title was.  An unusual title may cause me to want to find out more.”

So whether you have become more specialized or more versatile, it is important to make sure your job title accurately reflects exactly what you do. Don’t be afraid to be creative.  If you are a job seeker it will help you stand out from the crowd.  If you already have a job, it will help you gain or maintain recognition for the excellent work you do.

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