Originally posted 16 January 2018 by Dawn Rasmussen

Job titles can be deceiving in many ways.

Sometimes, it’s your current boss / company who is pretty stingy with how job titles are structured.

Other times, it is a simple lack of understanding about what the job entails that results in a poorly-created job title.

So, what do you do when you hit either one of these scenarios?

Current Job Title Doesn’t Reflect Your Current Work

First of all, if your current employer has given you a job title that in effect, doesn’t remotely reflect the work you are doing and at what level, this can be a road block to your career.

This could be the result of a badly-built organizational chart, internal agendas, human resource designations, or simply put: a boss doesn’t want to up your job title because that means more pay… which usually is the main reason.

I had a client who was technically a VP at a large, international company worth billions of dollars. However, his job title was that of a manager. That could definitely hurt his career advancement simply because the job title was holding him back when in fact, his next justifiable move would be the C-suite.

When you are facing this kind of dilemma, don’t give up. There is one tool in your favor, and here’s how it works:

Report your actual job title in your résumé as it would be listed on file in the human resources department. But immediately after including that, then put into parenthesis the actual level at which you performed.

Example (using my client from above):  International Manager (equivalent to Vice President)

This way, you are factually reporting the actual job title but also letting the reader know that there was a job title discrepancy between the title and the work being done at a certain level.

But always be careful about not over-reaching. You don’t want to peg yourself up higher than what your background can actually justify!

Target Job Title isn’t Accurate

If you are applying for a position, and the description reads like a higher-level job, but the title itself doesn’t match, that could be a red flag of something wrong internally at the company.

For example, if you are super excited about a job and everything in the posting is exactly what you were hoping for in the next career move upwards, but the title seems like a demotion, that’s a signal to pause.

You have two options here: Go ahead and apply for the job and hope that in the interview, the title / positioning of the work can be negotiable.

I’ve had multiple clients who have had this situation happen and went for it… and as part of the job offer / negotiation process, they have managed to get the job title changed to more accurately reflect the work to be performed while also ensuring that this is a step forward in advancing themselves up the career ladder.

But there is always the possibility that you’ll hit a road block, and the title will remain as is. That’s the gamble you have to take, and eventually, you will come to a decision point as to whether you will accept a lower-level-sounding position or not.

That’s not to say you can’t employ the “equivalent to” tool for future applications, but it does help to actually capture the correct job title from the get-go. Otherwise, it is an uphill battle.

Job titles can be deceiving, and that’s where you always need to be vigilant to ensure that yours is the most accurate reflection of your work so you can spring board into new, higher-level career opportunities.

Posted by Elizabeth McQuade

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