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Do Job Titles Really Matter?


DATE: July 16, 2019

There is a lot of debate around the importance of job titles. Some feel they represent your skills and expertise, and some are of the opinion that they are irrelevant and it's your accomplishments that define your role. Job titles have obvious relevance in terms of company hierarchy and being able to accurately determine roles within a business. They can also inspire confidence and a sense of status amongst employees. There are levels of compensation and remuneration associated with titles that can motivate and encourage a great work ethic. But how much sway should a headline really have?

Misleading titles

When it comes to career progression, the right job title can mean the difference between feeling appreciated at work or not. It can also have a massive influence on whether a candidate will consider moving roles, companies or even industries. There is often an obvious career path laid out for employees and most will aim to make their way from junior, through mid-level to senior and will discount opportunities if they do not fit into this obvious structure. Of course, nobody wants to feel they are making a backwards move, but it's possible to miss out on roles that fit perfectly with your skill-set and experience simply because the job title makes it appear more junior than it actually is.

Company variations

Job titles can be misleading and vary greatly from business to business and across industries. For example, a position may sound junior but, depending on the sector and the requirements of the role, can be an integral and influential part of the company with responsibilities far outweighing that of a more senior management role. The key when looking for any new role is to focus on the job specification and see how it aligns with your skills and the things you really enjoy doing at work.

Job title motivations

In a recent survey of office workers, a shocking 70% said they would take a better job title over an increase in salary. There is an obvious disconnect between the emphasis people place on the value they bring to a company and how they are seen within that company. Of course, job titles can be important for an organisation's structure and allow internal colleagues to accurately identify who does what and where responsibilities lie, but they should not define capability or respect. If you are looking for a ‘better' job title but not a pay rise to match, are you merely satisfying vanity? The survey also discovered that the majority of those questioned felt that people they meet outside of work will judge them by their job titles. So the need for a professional sounding headline to impress others can be the driving factor in working towards a promotion or looking for a new role.

Changing landscape

Job roles are also evolving constantly in the current technology economy and not all titles are moving at the same pace. Some businesses will be hiring into roles where the job specification has been fluid but the headline hasn't changed for years. For example, a Marketing Manager these days will be heading up a team of MarTech savvy specialists rather than a traditional team of direct marketeers. Even where job titles are evolving, it can be just as confusing. Being a Manager no longer means you have a team underneath you, it can mean you manage a product or specialism. And new headlines are being created every day to try and better align skills and remits with day to day working, there was no such thing as a Chief Happiness Officer ten years ago! It's also worth remembering that job titles are not necessarily static. Once you are in a role, it is possible to discuss a change in title to better suit the job you do or the level of seniority you feel you are displaying. Try bringing this up at your half year review once you are fully settled into your role.

Job progression

When it comes to showing progression within a company, job titles can play an important part. If you have had a promotion to your current role then this may look impressive to potential employers and it will help for searchability if you are looking to move into the same or a very similar job. However, it can also be a hindrance if you are looking for a sideways move or complete career change. You may have all the transferable skills needed for the new position you want but if your current job title doesn't align you may fall to the bottom of the CV pile. Always include a short bio at the top of your CV that shows off your skills and explains why you are looking to move into the new discipline or industry.

It's clear that job titles do hold a certain level of importance, be that in terms of company structure or employees' own self evaluation, but perhaps there shouldn't be so much reliance on them to define roles. Having a job title that makes you proud and motivated at work is great, but having a role that you can excel and develop in should be what you aim for.

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