An "Executive" by any other name would smell as sweet…
What’s in a name? And what’s in a Job Title to be more precise?
Ever been a Director but not on The Board? A Manager without a team? An Executive of little more than the paperclips on your desk? Some professionals would say that job titles are completely meaningless, and to a degree they are right. In a business environment where companies are permitted to dream up their own job titles, from the humdrum to the downright whacky (Director of Moonshots, anyone?), a title in one organisation can mean something totally different in another. So what’s the point? Unless – as in healthcare – your job title is directly connected to your pay grade, should any of us be bothered about what we are called at work?
….It’s all about context really. So, let’s look at “you” from a few different viewpoints:
You as an individual.
For some, job title has a huge impact on self-confidence and engagement at work. As Dan Cable, professor at London Business School says:
“It is a form of self-expression in the workplace, it is a symbolic representation of what you do and the value that you bring.”
So, if you were ascribed a job title when you first joined the business, but feel it doesn’t really reflect you or your values now, why not think about reviewing it? Or, if you have been at your company for a while, your roles & responsibilities may have changed but your title has remained the same. Now is a great time to have a conversation with your line manager. It might even be the catalyst to start a discussion about pay, too.
Don’t let an inadequate title hold you back. Having “Junior” anywhere in your title is only temporary. Make sure you understand what is required to make that next step up. Know the title you want and go for it. But before you get too carried away make sure your ideal title complements the culture of the company. Chief Inspiration Officer might not be the best fit in a traditional accountancy firm. Which brings us neatly onto my next point…
You within your organisation.
We can’t deny that a job title can be a mark of authority and expertise. Every company has some form of hierarchy, and your title gives everyone a clue about your level or standing within it. Not having the right title in relation to your role, responsibility and position can affect your standing within the company you work for. This is of course dependent on the culture of your organisation. If you work in a creative or tech agency for example, there may be a more relaxed approach to job titles. In sectors such as Legal or Financial however, job titles (and pay) are often linked to level of qualifications – not just time served. If you are feeling dissatisfied with your current job title, just consider what’s realistic within the context of your company and your industry before launching into a review.
You from the outside world.
Firstly, if you are in a client-facing role or you regularly spend time networking with industry peers, what does your current job title tell them? Are you really helping anyone by adopting that wacky job title? Does it convey expertise, authority, or a safe pair of hands? Make sure that any changes you make are not going to cause problems (or require needless explanations) further down the line.
Perhaps the most pertinent time when a job title really does matter is when you are in the market for a new one. Titles are important on a CV. Given the short amount of time recruiters and hiring managers spend scanning your CV, a good title is a quick indication of what you do / have done, and that you are at the right level for the role which you have applied for.
Working for a company which enjoys creative and non-standard titles (or very nondescript ones) makes it a challenge to convey that you are at the right level for the role. We would suggest adding a note in the title to emphasise your fit, e.g. : “Senior Manager – Sales“ so that your area of expertise is it’s abundantly clear.
Ultimately owning the right job title is about more than ego. It is about feeling valid and recognised within your organisation. Don’t shy away from starting a conversation with your manager if you want to review it.
Most importantly, make sure you have the right titles & descriptions in place when you are on the hunt for a new job. By ensuring you have the title that reflects your abilities your job title can only help you.