The pen is mightier than the sword… The fact that we have been using this adage since the 1800’s confirms we understand the importance of words.
Few of us fail to realise the value of language but some still think that words just have a meaning. They don’t. They also have a big impact.
Words elicit an emotional and psychological response. Job titles do the same. Our job titles often affect our salary, self worth and the way that we engage with others. This can be either in a social setting where people ask what you do for a living to quickly garner information on you, or in a work situation when a client uses your title to establish if you are the best person for the job.
Some people are not choosy about titles, taking the approach that salary and responsibility are all important. In my role as a recruiter, I can tell you that this technique is relatively flawed. If a CEO is looking for a new MD, that’s what he will search for. A particularly tenacious one who has exhausted the initial pool of candidates may then widen the search to financial directors or sales directors but why put yourself in the second search? Why not do what you can to be the obvious choice?
A large number of companies use titles to suggest hierarchy and define roles and responsibilities. This works well and they stick to this structure rigidly. The only issue some have with this is if they are leaving a smaller company with the title of marketing executive and moving to a large firm with more responsibility and money, a job title of marketing assistant can seem like a demotion.
In these cases, if the company is unable to change the title, the candidate needs to concentrate on leveraging the power of the company brand and not let this be a game changer. They can always, after all, simply describe themselves as ‘in marketing’ and let the value of their business commentary set the perceived level of seniority.
Some businesses use quirkier names which sit well with company structure. A CEO I know is called ‘‘The Big Kahuna’. This is fine as he is well known and his expertise is firmly established. Someone who is just starting out should back up a title like that with a pitch on their accomplishments and skill sets so people fully understand what they bring to the table.
It’s worth mentioning here that some companies make up names. Strange, wordy titles which are often ambiguous, intended to sound senior but often come across as career camouflage. Why are they hiding behind that vague, confusing title? These should be avoided along with anything else which could look like smoke and mirrors.
In smaller companies, which can be more flexible regarding titles, it’s a great negotiation point. They may not have the budget to increase salary but can often be nimble with regard to titles to secure candidates. In this instance, it’s always best to push for the better one; something which can catapult a career forward.
For anyone who is able to choose their own title, I suggest against over egging. A boy, years away from any suggestion of facial hair, cycled to my house some years back, asking to cut my lawn. As he shook my hand, he handed over a business card, sticky from sweets, which said: ‘Scott Smith. CEO and Mower’. I employed him immediately. Who wouldn’t? A man of his experience.