The business card on the image below is a real business card of Mark Zuckerberg. He had two sets. One simply identified him as “CEO.” The other: “I’m CEO…bitch!” (more on TechCrunch)
Does that line below your name on your LinkedIn profile or your business card matter at all? Is your actual working activity more important than your job title? These are questions that many people ask today when the issue of job designation is being discussed. The truth is that a job title may or may not matter, depending on the circumstances.
To start with, job titles affect people’s perception of you and the amount of power you might or might not be wielding. After your name, the second item people notice on your business card is your job title, and this also applies to your resume and online profile. Think about your job title like an advertisement. It is always visible. If not, what’s the point? Your job title is important, especially as an entrepreneur because it is an opportunity to communicate your brand and image to people. If you run your own business, then you should care about the title you give to yourself. For many people, their job title reflects their personality and characteristics, and the person they are striving to become.
For those who are employed, job titles are even more important. In heavily politicized environments, you might hear superiors tell subordinates that the job they do is more important than the job title. You should be extra cautious if you are the receiver of this message. Why? In companies where rigid hierarchies and a clear chain of command are prominent, your job title will affect your survival in such an organization’s food chain. In these kinds of organizations, you will find that the aim is not to really empower employees, but instead to see who can survive the best when subjected to bureaucracy and rigid distribution of authority.
For an organization in which extra authority and power come with the job title, it is normal to find managers who are driven by their egos leading to constant infighting and dirty office politics. In such an environment, teamwork goes out the window and people start to look out for themselves since everyone is aiming to get ahead through better job titles, which come with more power and authority. Also typically in such an organization, there are strict salary guidelines based on job titles, so it makes sense to be concerned about your job title and you should let no one tell you otherwise. We are still living in an era where we would like to put everything into the right column, the virtual box that we can connect with the right responsibility, and the right salary range. For some people, getting the right box sooner than others is the main – and sometimes the only – motivation behind all their efforts at work.
A job title can give you power in the company structure and this power extends to your resume, which in turn extends to your interaction with other employees. When you go for an interview, a very important consideration for a hiring manager, consciously or subconsciously, is your current job title. An important-sounding job title will have a significant effect on the hiring manager’s decision. On the other hand, if your job title isn’t inspiring, then you might appear uninteresting to the hiring manager and this will not make a good impression on him/her. Which is more interesting, “Special Tier 3 Consultant” or “Technical Manager”?
Now the problem for many people who have worked for years in organizations that are driven by tall hierarchies and rigidity is that they lose their sense of identity, because over time they have tied their self-worth to their job titles. According to the Gallup research, 55 percent of people in the US define themselves by their jobs instead of perceiving work as something they do to earn money and make ends meet.
The confidence of walking around the office as the Director, Head of Operations, Team Leader, or CEO goes out the window the moment the job title is taken away, leaving many feeling depressed and unimportant since they have attached their identities to their job title. This is where the advice not to take job titles too seriously comes into play. If you have attached too much importance to your job title and your job or career changes, then you may need to adjust your self-image too, which is not so easy.
How Important is the Job Title for You?
After 10 years of hard work you have made it as a director; somebody offers you a new job with a salary increase of 25% or even 40%, but there is a catch. The title of your new role is Associate Specialist and the question is: Are you going to accept the role or you are going to hesitate because the title is really important to you?
Sometimes job offers come with titles that look like a step backwards in terms of career, simply because we are comparing the title with our current job structure. Sometimes these new roles offer more responsibility, a better salary, and many other benefits compared with our current role, but when we see a “lower job title” the first reaction in many cases is negative. Sometimes we reject the offer even without trying to learn more. Because people compare the new job title to their current job, they don’t see a positive difference. If the current job title is a director of a small company (30 employees), the new title of Associate Manager could offer more, because it is with a big corporation (100K employees) and is connected with more responsibility and a bigger paycheck.
Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them. –Ann Landers
The problem with job titles is the perception of how others (Recruiters, Hiring Managers etc.) view them. If you are working as a manager for a big company, you can have the same responsibility, and perform the same role as a director of a smaller company, but convincing the hiring team of a company to give you a shot and invite you for an interview may be more difficult.
It is natural to want to get ahead, be respected and feel honored to be doing the job by being rewarded with a bigger and better-sounding job title, but we should also think about the impact of our work. It is important to think continually about the work you do; consider the organization you work for and your happiness as an individual, before you go title-hunting so that you don’t become entangled in the web of virtual importance spun by managers who are led by their own egos.
A better job title will not always make your working conditions better, so it is important to evaluate your situation, enjoy the work you do, make valuable connections and let your career goals be guided by your passions and your hard work. If the opportunity to work on a project that you love opens, it may be better for you to go for that than work on one in which you are struggling because you want to be recognized and given a medal.
A job title may not always give you the comfort that you desire, this is why you must define what you want and work in an organization that can help you achieve it.
Work hard, so that your results are more visible than your job title.