Judging A Job By Its Title

By: Cody Pierson


Your job title says a lot about you, whether you want it to or not. It's shorthand for what you do and where you fit into an organization. It's also inherently meaningless, since no two companies are identical and nobody has to sign an affidavit before they declare themselves the Vice President of something. There's no solution to this (and I'm not sure it's a problem, per se) short of standardizing job titles across the board, but it did get me thinking about the two fundamental components of a job title: the description and the status symbol.

The Description

This part tells people, at least in a broad sense, what you do. (Marketers sell you stuff you don't need, developers invent new versions of Angry Birds, etc.) It should be the simpler of the two components but as jobs have become more specialized and we've invented new ways to describe them it isn't always the case. That's why one of the first steps in any search we conduct is figuring out all the other ways to describe the job we're looking to fill.

There's also a trend, particularly with startups, to try to describe the culture of the organization by inventing 'creative' job titles. (Chief Happiness Officer, Coding Ninja, Social Superstar, etc.) As someone who's worked for a startup, I understand the appeal of a non-standard job title but, as a general rule, if people understand less about what you do after they know your title, you should consider changing it.

The Status Symbol

Practically speaking this is an indicator of where you fit into an organizational structure, but we all know it's much more than that. (I'll admit that I'm pretty proud of the 'Manager' in my current title.) An impressive title is an incentive to climb the career ladder, just like more money and extra vacation time. It's an unassuming way of telling people that you're a success, which is why it's where people take the most liberty with their job titles.

How 'senior' does a Senior Account executive have to be? Who certified me as a 'specialist' in my previous job? Why do Vice Presidents come in Senior, Executive, Junior and vanilla varieties? Whether it's resume padding or organizational requirements, hierarchy has become a lot more complicated. This probably contributed to the rise of the 'flat' corporate structure, which puts much less emphasis on job titles in general.

What does all this mean for your career? I don't know exactly, but being called a 'Sandwich Artist' didn't make me stay at Subway and if my current title were 'Marketing Monkey' I wouldn't love my job any less.

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Cody Pierson is the Marketing Manager at Martyn Bassett Associates, Toronto's premiere executive recruitment firm. If you're working in the GTA and need help staying connected to your industry, get in touch with us at www.mbassett.com

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