Don’t let title get in the way

Let’s face it, when being deliberate in your career, you are often thinking about that next step UP on the job title chain. As much as I’d love to tell you that title doesn’t matter, we all know it can make a difference in how you are perceived in the workplace – whether it’s the influence you wield in your organization, or the opportunities that are open to you when looking to make a change.

While job titles matter, there are so many factors that make them anything but black and white.

Take two of the searches we are working on right now. One is a Director of Internal Communications. Seems like a fairly common title and role. But unlike several positions we’ve conducted searches for with this exact same title, this is with a large company that is doing some incredible transformational work and will be leading a team of more than 25 people!

Compare that to the Director of Communications role we have with a much smaller organization. The work is incredibly interesting and filled with purpose and passion. It’s a “head of comms” role and will have a seat at the leadership table but the team is much smaller, the scope of responsibility much different. Both are exciting roles, but the candidates will be very different for these similarly titled positions.

It’s very easy to get caught up in title when getting that call from a recruiter about potentially considering a new role. I’ve had candidates pass on even scheduling a conversation because their focus was on what it was called, versus what you would actually get to do in the job. So how do you decide when title should matter?

Begin with curiosity and an open mind

Before passing on an opportunity that could be exciting, always be open to the initial conversation. Listen for what the organization is trying to achieve. Ask questions about company size, team size and the total scope of responsibility. Evaluate your career path thus far and how a role like this would challenge you or set you back. Because job descriptions never really tell the whole story, you can’t really make that determination without an initial conversation.

Trust but verify

If the initial conversation gets you excited about the potential of the role, it’s time to do your homework. Not only will you uncover more details with every interview, you can verify that based on that organization, titles make sense. Ask yourself:

–         Do others with a similar title have the access and authority you would need to be successful?

–         What is the reputation of the organization and how they view titles?

When you feel comfortable that the role is appropriately aligned for the expectations of the job, you can press ahead.

Tell the story behind the title

One of the big considerations I often hear from candidates who are taking yet another director titled role, or maybe even a step back in title, is how will it look on the resume. Indeed there are times you have to tell the story behind why your title progression is what it is. Often when I see someone have a lateral or even seemingly lower title from one job to the next, I simply ask for the story. Be prepared to confidently share that the scope of the role and/or compensation was a step up. Maybe the challenge because of what the company was experiencing made it a worthwhile move in spite of title. What did you learn? How has it made you ready for the next step? Tell that story well and you’ll continue to move ahead.

There will be times you go through these steps and know that a move may not be right because in spite of your open minded approach to title, it’s just not right for you. And that’s okay. But when the opportunity is exciting to you, don’t let title get in the way.