While some job titles –like Retail Sales Associate – are straight-forward, others are much more unique. Even though some employers may state that the job title doesn’t matter, it may matter more than they realize. A job title is a key element of your professional presentation and can impact your career advancement–even if it is in more subversive ways.
In order to understand how a job title can affect your career, it’s important to understand the difference between job title and job position.
A job title is a label you carry within your organization based on the position you hold.
The job position is the role you fill within your company.
On your resume, your job title becomes the heading of a position and the job position will turn into the details (or experience) you put underneath that heading.
Job titles become sticky because certain titles account for a wide variety of skill levels.
For example, a highly experienced Project Manager may have the same title as the others in their department; however, their role may handle larger-scale projects and include project reviews of their coworkers.
So, What's in a Name?
On average your resume is reviewed for an average of 6 seconds before a hiring manager decides to move forward with your application or not. Unless a hiring manager has super-human speed-reading abilities, that isn’t nearly enough time to comprehensively read over your position duties or work history; however, 6 seconds is enough time to review your job titles.
This is why it’s so important to make sure your job title reflects the duties of your role. If you have experience in the type of role you are applying for, your best chance at being noticed is to have a relevant job title.
Hiring managers sometimes use job titles to estimate salary expectations, as well. When job titles are outdated or unique, you risk losing out on a great opportunity.
…But What Does That Mean?
Everyone interprets language a little differently, so it can be hard to know exactly what your job title will mean to the hiring manager reviewing your resume. Try to keep things simple: your job titles should include your rank within the organization (e.g. representative, manager, and supervisor), and your job title should also be clear enough to give an understanding of your responsibilities.
When is it Time to Ask For a Title Change?
If you recently have been given a raise, or have taken on additional responsibilities, you may be thinking, “Should I ask for a title change”? It is definitely something worth evaluating, but not all changes in pay and/or responsibilities warrant a title change.
If you are working a new shift or became the top performer in your department, that probably will not be enough for your supervisor to say yes to a new title. On the other hand, if you are one of the most experienced members of your team, you assist with directing new hires, and have taken on unique projects and/or added responsibilities, it may be in your best interest to bring up the topic of job titles with your manager.
What If My Job Title Doesn't Match My Job Responsibilities?
There will be times when you will have to include a less than ideal job title on your resume. Perhaps you asked for a title change and didn’t obtain it, or maybe your prior employer’s job title did not cover everything you did. Regardless, closing the gap between your job title and job responsibilities is important.
Instead of drawing more attention to the details of your experiences, try to add clarification to the job title itself. For example, Customer Service Representative (Role: Team Trainer) shows your official title while also demonstrating your level of expertise within the role.
Likewise, Store Cast Member (Role: Sales Associate) helps clarify the nontraditional job title. When taking this approach, take care not to lose sight of the job title and job duties, and never be untruthful. Integrity is important to hiring managers, and misrepresenting yourself during the application process is a sure-fire way to take yourself out of the running for this position and all other positions at that company.
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Job Titles Should Help You, Not Hurt You!
Job titles are important benchmarks for your career. Job titles help hiring managers and recruiters determine whether your skills and experience are the proper fit for their open roles. Be sure you are representing all your hard work and professional achievements well with clear, meaningful and effective job titles.