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Thursday, October 12, 2006
Job Titles Aren’t Important – Or Are They?
I hear this a great deal from clients when I ask them what job position they are targeting. When they say this, they usually qualify it by adding “it’s the challenge or the type of work that is important”. I can understand that. Most people change jobs because they are unchallenged in their current ones. Challenge is a big factor in work satisfaction.

Now, I want to challenge the statement that job titles aren’t important. Job titles are VERY important and not just to the ego. I think that is what most people are referring to when they say the title isn’t important. What they mean is “I don’t care if I’m a VP or a Senior Director.” Job titles are important, though, because they are used as a measure by hiring managers and recruiters. They are a sort of yardstick.

A hiring manager looking for a Vice President is going to be looking for the job title Vice President on candidates’ resumes because they want to hire someone who is at that level and has that experience. A recruiter looking for a VP might miss a resume of a qualified candidate who only had the title of Department Manager, even if the candidate had all the right qualifications. That is why it is important to consider job title when looking at your next job. It will be a stepping stone in your career in years to come. Negotiate for it just like you would benefits and salary.

Hiring managers also gauge career progression by job titles. It’s logical to see a career progression move from entry-level job titles to more senior level. Job titles are indicators of that progression as long as they are accompanied by job description and achievements that back up the title. If the title isn’t backed up by the experience, that will become evident quickly in the interview process and your goose will be cooked. Don’t claim to be something you are not.

During the dot-com boom, there were a great many “Instant CEOs” – twenty-somethings who had the title but didn’t have the depth of experience to back up the title. And we all know what happened to most of the dot-coms.

Let me give you another example of a job title being important. Let’s say you owned your own business and grew it into something quite profitable then sold it to move on to “new challenges”. Listing yourself as Owner might actually provide a negative connotation if you are seeking an executive position in your new explorations. You can actually change your job title (one of the few times you can do this) if you were the sole proprietor. You can call yourself CEO, Founder, Chairman of the Board – whatever. Just make sure you don’t over do it and get yourself laughed out of consideration.

Job titles are important and should be considered as contributors to your career, not just your ego. Keep that in mind when you are considering a new job. If the employer can’t quite meet your salary desires, an upgrade in job title might be easily do-able.

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