What’s in a name (or job title)?

whats in a name

Invariably, when you walk into a social gathering and realise you will have to introduce yourself to others, your mind races, thinking ‘What should I say?’, since job titles form an important source of social standing and personal identify.  What most people want to know, indeed, they will often press you to find out, is what you do for a living?  What is your job title?

In today’s society, we have become significantly defined by our job titles, and we often define ourselves by our titles.  Job titles serve a number of roles; communicating your authority on a subject to people, letting people know what you do in your job, in a short-hand way.

This is what a job title does; it gives people you meet, and your customers and clients, a clear idea of where you work, what you do and at what level you do it at.  It should give you credibility in your field.  It’s something you use as a springboard on your career ladder.  A good job title can acknowledge the value the company sees in your efforts and earn you respect from your peers and customers.  It can indicate importance or “reward” employees in lieu of a salary increase.

You want a job title that not only accurately describes the work you’re employed to do, but also a title that reflects your pay ranking and seniority within the organisation.  Job titles can be used as a measure by those who hire and recruit – they are a sort of yardstick.   Recruiters gauge career progression by job titles (job titles are indicators of that progression as long as they are accompanied by job description and achievements that back up the title). In many cases, having a strong job title is your catapult to your next job.

Job titles also have emotions and expectations attached, as individuals have a need to feel intelligent, influential and important.  Finally, job titles can empower employees, and they may even prompt positive behaviours, such as taking more initiative or displaying greater leadership.  For all of these reasons, enhancing job titles can be extremely motivating to employees.  For example, using the term “Manager” in a title implies that you manage resources, manage clients/customers, their accounts or manage projects.

Having titles that are clear, common, well respected, and well understood is very important.  Having titles that are regularly reviewed is also important.  Sometimes, the title is even more important that the salary.

3 thoughts on “What’s in a name (or job title)?”

  1. When I worked at BT, there were a number of people who had bagged the job title “Senior Expert”. Not sure where you go after that.

  2. Thank you Brian – as the blog mentions, it’s really important that others understand what job titles really mean, and that they stay relevant. I’m not sure what a “Senior Expert” would cover, and aren’t we all experts in our own areas anyway? Interesting stuff!

    1. Hi Catherine,

      Yes, I think that they were more about stroking egos than anything else. Totally meaningless and useless to anyone else. As another aside, there was also Job Title inflation, to make the same job sound more important – so “Developers” in IT became “System Architects” overnight. The University seems to have avoided this so far, thank goodness.

      Brian Lingley, Research Knowledge Guru.

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