May 4, 2021

No One Cares About Your Title

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We’re all the CEO of our own minds…

I don’t know why some people are still obsessed with titles, but they are. For some it’s a status symbol, for others it’s the pecking order over their peers. In any event, it’s a lot of wasted energy. And you could be negotiating for more important things.

Jeff Smith and James Hornick talk about more meaningful things employees and companies should focus on The 10 Minute Talent Rant. Episode 12: No One Cares About Your Title

Episode Transcript

The 10 Minute Talent Rant is live. I’m James Hornick, I’m joined by Jeff Smith and we are on the clock. The 10 Minute Talent Rant is our ongoing series where we break down things that are broken in the talent acquisition and hiring space and maybe even pitch a solution or two. This week’s topic: nobody cares about your job title.

 

So as a side note, we want to take a step back. So we like to talk about all talent issues but we realized we’ve been very heavily weighted on really bashing companies. So there is one thing more on the personnel side and the people side we wanted to talk to but then as we’re doing notes, we realized that we’re going to bash companies in this one too.

 

So let’s just kick it off. Jeff, what’s up with this. Why are people still caring about job titles? I think there’s a lot of cache with it. For one, if you’re a job seeker I think that it’s natural to get caught up into what your place card says. I mean, we’ve been taught since birth in the professional world that a title like is of somewhat importance.

 

I think it shows progression on resumes. I think it shows some sort of perception of an authoritative role amongst peers. I think what we want to talk about here is why all of that’s just kind of going by the wayside a little bit. So the only people that care about your title really is you.

 

Yeah. We’ve seen self-destructive behavior around this. And I think that we’ve seen a lot of companies that will appease people with a title, you know, Like, whether it’s in a negotiation or whether it’s in a promotional opportunity, quote unquote I’m using, quote unquote fingers here because it’s not really a promotion.

 

They’re just giving you a new title and people fall for it. We’ve seen candidates take pay cuts or whatever, go to opportunities that are clearly across the board not as good for any metric you want to look at whether it’s pay or whether it’s for the opportunity at the company or whether it’s more importantly, scope responsibility only because the title was better.

 

Thinking that’s going to help them out in the long run when all the metrics that do matter aren’t there. All the things that matter, I should say and just seeing that anytime you see like inflated job titles used as a negotiation sometimes you see candidates kind of initiate that instead of like going after real stuff.

 

You know, going after real things that are meaningful and more impactful. So yeah. These are the kinds of behaviors and – I think people are just kind of looking things backwards. So let’s deep dive into it more. Yeah. I mean, listen, if you have an inflated title first and foremost, like, and you start to interview, you’re going to get exposed.

 

 Again, not totally bashing on financial services industry or the banking industry but like everyone’s an AVP, right? Every single person. So how do we distinguish what those individuals do? Clearly I think people gravitate towards those types of jobs because of that title and we talked about this prepping, like the finance accounting sector is the sector in our mind’s eye that’s totally beholden to this behavior. And you need to be able to get away from this misguided belief that your salary and your promotion opportunities is going to be like hamstrung by your title.

 

Sometimes you can think of it limited but it’s more hamstrung. It’s just what crappy companies do to justify not giving you a raise. And we’re right back to bashing companies. But that’s where you get caught in the hamster wheel of somebody using that as a crutch to say like, no, you gotta get to this, this, this.

 

And it’s pervasive. We were having a conversation with this on LinkedIn the other day and the promotional of this whole thing. And there was one gentleman who mentioned, titles unfortunately do matter, like pay scales are based on titles. Promotions are based on titles, all of this stuff.

 

That’s what companies want you to think. There’s plenty of situations where the whole salary band, title band is used as an excuse to not pay you more, “Well you’re at this level. So this is what the band is. We can’t pay you more than this and you’re not ready for this promotion to this level.”

 

Like they’re creating a construct where they’re justifying why they can’t pay you more or why they can’t give you a better salary. Look, if they really want to pay you more and they really want to promote you or whatever, like they can do it. Just the idea that you’re limited because of what the title is and you have to do this to get this other title, and we can’t like, it’s just made, it’s just a Fugazi. It’s just something they’ve kind of created. Titles, I mean, they’re arbitrary. They’re not even uniform from one company to the next. You’re not more likely to become – if you’re a manager at this company or let’s say you’re a director at this company,

 

it’s not like when you go to interview at your next place, the next company, they’re going to care. It’s meaningless in terms of actual production. It’s not automatically getting you paid more when you make that next move. And conversely, those constructs are set up internally for a reason.

 

When you interview as a mid, maybe you’re called a mid-level software engineer and you’re interviewing for a senior or a principal. Guess what? The senior and the principal title is probably predicated off institutional knowledge. So how in the heck could you have ever had that anyways?

 

I don’t think companies do this implicitly – some do – but I would hope to think that the majority don’t. But when you’re vetting somebody, you’re always going after the institutional knowledge that nobody can have or access prior to working at that company. So again, it’s a moot point.

 

Yeah, I think that if you’re at company A and you’re interviewing company B, your title at company A doesn’t matter to company B, is the quick way of saying that. Your salary does. When they’re trying to figure out what to pay you, that’s absolutely something that will play over – 

 

companies as a whole they want to pay somebody’s salary, it’s going to Incentivize them to move. So that’s like a real thing. Whereas like title just doesn’t really play in. I’ve always said for years, scope is something that’s critically important. The scope is the – I’d say scope and salary are probably one in one A in terms of like what you need to be looking at. Are you allowed to do more things?

 

What things are you accomplishing? That’s the stuff that matters and that’s the stuff that really the next company you’re looking at is going to care about, not what your title is. Yeah, and we see it with the proliferation of social media in the professional setting, right? I think there’s more buy-in now than ever that titles are kind of stupid.

 

You can put whatever you want on your LinkedIn banner right now. Like I could go right now and put I’m a juggler of – a juggler of recruiting and no way you would care. Like nobody cares. The mystique is gone. We’re not like sitting at the board table, American psycho style, like passing our business cards back and forth talking about our font.

 

All of that stuff is gone. The power play is gone. It’s readily accessible for anybody that wants to see it. Yeah and I hate to take us down a totally different path, but to your point,personal brand has replaced the job title. Whatever voice or whatever perception you’ve created for yourself through social media or anything else or just – and I mean that half sarcastically, because I like making fun of personal brand too.

 

So not saying that’s like the end all, but you have an opportunity nowadays to make yourself known by what you actually know and by articulating your viewpoints and that’s how you’re known, not by your title. Which is how it was in the past when all these current things didn’t exist. So anyway. Cool.

 

You want to talk about some fixes? Yeah. So, okay. I kind of hit on this a little bit. So what you should be focused on: scope and pay or one-on-one A. Those are the two things. Make sure when you’re interviewing at your next firm or if you’re trying to get more opportunities at your current firm, it’s all about expanding your scope and what work you’re actually doing. Pay is obviously the reason why we show up. So obviously that’s important. Working with a great team.And if you get a nice title, cool but that’s like the nice to have at the end. Second thing, don’t let companies monetize the title. Like that’s not something that if you’re negotiating should be the kicker that puts you over the top. Ask for something real.

 

So some ideas on that, commitment for a mentor. I think if you’re negotiating, ask for the company to actually provide you a mentor. It shows they’re bought in and then just opportunities for skill acquisition, certifications, education, flex assignments, even things like work-life balance are more important.

 

Yeah, at the end of the day, if you’re working with a company that can’t pay you more because of a reason that revolves around the narrative of you’re in a title band and we can’t give you a better title because of internal equity and all these other things. At best, there’s some ignorance there. At worst like they’re purposely being untruthful. There’s always room to negotiate. So the last thing I would say is get into the job that you think is perfect and negotiate your title afterwards. If it’s that important, talk to them six months in when you’ve shown some cachet and some buy-in. More than likely you’re going to get what you’re looking for.

 

 And we are short on clock, so that’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning into the 10 Minute Talent Rant, part of the Talent Insights series which is always available for replay on the Hirewell YouTube channel, as well as the Talent Insights podcast on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon. Jeff, thanks again. Everybody out there, we’ll see you soon.

 

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