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Why Job Titles Matter

Aug 2, 2022

Your job title is much more than the second line on your business card. It tells people about where you have been and forecasts where you may want to go. Junior associate? Not for long.

Job titles serve as rungs in your career ladder. They signal to future employers that you have acquired skills, achieved a level of competence, and had experiences and responsibilities in your field. Let's dig into some of the essentials and see why you should make your title a priority in your career development.

Different Fields, Different Titles

The type of professional field you're in plays a significant role in the titles you may hold. Let's have a look at two of the more popular career paths and what employees in those areas might be called.

IT Job Titles

In the information technology (IT) industry, job titles are far from standardized. For example, according to a lengthy but by no means exhaustive list compiled by Indeed, a front-line IT support person can have any of the following titles: computer support technician, help desk worker, help desk support, IT support specialist, IT technician, technical support, or many more. With all of these options, it can be difficult to know if you are positioning yourself optimally for career advancement.

Business Titles

There is also a fair amount of variation between titles in the business world, although some terms are fairly standardized. A "coordinator" is typically someone who is bringing together different aspects of a project to accomplish a goal; a "manager" is typically someone in charge of a small- or medium-sized group of people; and a "chief" is a top executive responsible for an aspect of an enterprise or an entire enterprise, like a chief financial officer (CFO) or a chief executive officer (CEO).

How to Choose the Right Job Title

Successfully navigating the myriad job titles is an essential part of seeking and applying for positions. It takes some research in the specific area of your expertise and a clear vision of where you want to end up. Here are some suggestions for finding your ideal job title for the present and the future.

Look for Titles That Reflect Your Skill Set

If you're working in a defined area of IT or business, such as database management or human resources, it may be beneficial for you to have your title reflect that if you want to gain more responsibility in that arena. That will also signal to other employers you are exactly the person they are looking for when they are looking to hire.

This is especially important during the application process because, according to Indeed, more and more companies are utilizing software to scan an applicant's resume looking for certain keywords to match the best person for the job. If you are an accomplished cybersecurity professional with experience in cloud security, for example, make sure your job title reflects that to maximize your chances of getting the interview.

If you have a more generic title, then a clear description of your duties and certifications in your resume can make up the difference. Make sure you are telling employers exactly what your skills are and where you are most likely to shine.

Negotiate for the Title You Want

Once you nail the interview, remember that a title is something companies may be flexible on. Negotiations should not only include salary considerations but also the job title itself. According to Harvard Business Review, the best way to do that is to have a clear idea of which title you want, a vision of how that can help you in the future, and a firm knowledge of your role in the organization and similar jobs in other organizations.

Take, for example, the variations between "junior analyst" and "senior analyst." As you gain experience in the role and take on more responsibilities, it's a good idea to have a frank discussion with your supervisors about changing your job title to one that is more closely aligned with your day-to-day responsibilities. When you are the one mentoring new hires, answering difficult questions, and directing your co-workers, it's time for a new title and a conversation with the boss.

Learn the Differences

Finding out the different roles takes time in the industry and familiarity with other companies as well as your own. The structure and workflow of each business can make a difference in job titles; understanding the differences can clue you in to the culture of the workplace. Harvard Business Review recommends researching similar job titles on sites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn to ensure your title and responsibilities are in line with your peers'. Don't forget to practice some in-person networking, as well.

Arming yourself with this information (including salary details) is essential to getting yourself the best offer and positioning yourself for your ideal career trajectory. Remember, every person in the executive suite has had a host of titles that brought them to where they are today, and by acquiring the right skills and experiences, you can also find yourself your dream job.

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