Job Titles Matter

You may be in a conversation one day discussing ways to contribute to a company’s objectives. A person is talking and says something honorable like, “job titles don’t mean anything”. That may be their way of letting you know that everyone is on the same team. The truth is, they are right. A job title is a hint regarding your primary responsibility, but everyone is responsible for everything in an organization. The job title you hold refers to the default focus you have in the absence of direction. In that sense, internal to the organization, job titles refer to basic responsibilities.

Your job title is not who you are and a job title does not imply one’s worth as higher or lower than another. It is a statement of responsibility and accountability. Despite this, job titles are important. Time for a story.

One time I was applying for a job at a major commercial software development company. The person interviewing me knew I had the skills and appreciated my background. The conversation then turned to my job titles. The problem was, my job titles did not match the typical responsibilities for those titles I held. Even though significant parts of my actual, day-to-day experience matched the job I was applying for, my job titles did not. That became a subtle objection raised by the interviewer in which I had to dig in and explain in detail the gap between my job titles and actual experience related to the position to which I had applied.

End of story. If that occurred once, I could dismiss it. I have seen that occur with regularity. In the day-to-day of a company, you may end up doing certain things that diverge from the position you hold. You are helping the team, but you may be losing ground when it comes to future positions.

Your suitability for future positions is based, in part, on accurate job titles that reflect the kind of work you do, have done, or are capable of doing. Whether it is right or wrong, employers will filter and form an impression of your suitability for positions based on the narrative implicit in your resume. Job titles will be scanned, the details of each job may not be read, and it is easy to doubt your fitness for a position due to the absence or limited duration of job titles that relate to the kind of work you are seeking.

The lesson, think about your career. In my case, I didn’t. I just tried to do the right thing in a given situation and ignored the job title. I still operate that way, but if I started over again, I would think it through a bit better.

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