What’s in a name? Turns out - quite a lot.
When accepting a job you may not think the title of your position has that much impact, but as a heading on your CV or subtitle on your email signature, it can reveal a lot about your position. Employers know the importance of job titles too. The average time a hiring manager spends looking at a CV is 5-7 seconds, just enough time to skim your previous job titles rather than read detailed descriptions of your responsibilities.
So how can you make sure you have the job title you deserve for all your hard work? You may want to think about asking for a job title change.
The most important reason to ask for a job title change is to make sure the title matches your responsibilities, especially if you find yourself with more responsibility or authority than your title suggests. After a few years in the same position, it’s highly likely your roles and duties have shifted slightly and a title you were given when you were first hired may be tying you down.
Let’s say you work in digital marketing and after a few years you find yourself leading your team, ‘Digital Marketing Director’ may reflect your authority, even if that wasn’t the role you were hired for in the first place.
A study found that 70% of respondents would take a better job title over more money.
Another reason negotiating your job title can aid your career journey is to help form your professional identity. A more specialised job title can help demonstrate the expertise you have gained through your work. For example, if you design computer hardware for a tech company, having the title of ‘computer hardware engineer’ rather than just ‘engineer’ demonstrates your specialism and expertise to future employers.
Although asking for a change in job title is a great way to help your career journey, you don’t need to be moving ‘up’ the career ladder in the traditional sense to negotiate a job title change. You could have made a lateral move within your current company, working in a different department or taking on responsibilities with a completely different team. You may find adding some specification to your job title can open up doors in other departments and show your diverse range of experience.
6 tips for negotiating a better job title
Research company culture
Before proposing a job title change to your hiring manager, you’ll need to think about your company culture. Some companies name their positions to coincide with their brand and have certain words they prefer to avoid. This is very common in startups who aim to reimagine the workplace hierarchy or have a non traditional approach. A common example of this is the word ‘manager’. Companies often prefer people in managerial positions to be ‘team leaders’ or ‘senior’ to seem less intimidating.
On the other hand, your company culture may prefer employees to have titles that look prestigious and authoritative to clients. On top of this, if you’re part of a large team with several other employees with the same job title, a change in title may not be possible unless you all change title together. Take time to think about how your ideal job title can slot into your company’s ethos and brand identity.
Look into industry norms
You may find it useful to look into similar positions in your field to find out if there are any industry standards you should be aware of before approaching your employer. Depending on your industry, hiring managers may have set pre-conceptions for levels of authority and experience. For example, you may come to learn that employees in your industry are only given the title ‘director’ after a certain number of years in their position. Being able to show your managers a wider knowledge of your industry as a whole will be an added bonus too.
Make your case with confidence
If you’ve decided on the title you want, you’ll need to explain why you deserve it. Similar to asking for a promotion, you’ll want to lead the negotiation with facts and evidence showing your capability. Put together a list of your achievements (from past roles and your current one) and your current responsibilities. Remember, you need to prove why your current job title no longer fits the work you do, so try and outline which aspects of your role have evolved over time.
Explain the benefits
Changing your job title isn’t just an act of charity from your employer - it benefits them too. Your job title will have a major impact on how you interact with clients and customers and may suggest levels of expertise that wouldn’t have been clear otherwise. If the title in your email signature reads ‘Digital Marketing Director’ instead of just ‘Digital Marketing,’ a client will be far more impressed. If your role is customer facing, it may be beneficial to have a title that isn’t intimidating.
Your employers can also use this as an opportunity to enhance the company brand. There has been a trend in startups using words like ‘guru’ in job titles to suggest their employees are open to imparting wisdom on each other, rather than being managers. Even if that’s not their thing, your employer will find a (totally free) change in job titles can completely transform their work environment.
Prepare to negotiate
You should treat your job title negotiation as any other deal - you’ll need a killer pitch, a sprinkle of charisma, and you have to be open to compromise. Don’t make the mistake of drunkenly bringing up a job title change at the Christmas party, instead, make an official appointment with HR or your manager.
Make sure you catch your employers at a convenient time, for example, by scheduling to meet in the afternoon or towards the end of the week. If you work in the kind of environment that deals with workload in peaks and troughs, catch them on a quiet day. Make your case, backed up with evidence and patiently await their response which may not be immediate. Although you should try and push for the job title you deserve, make it clear you are open to a compromise if necessary.
Keep it professional
As deserving as you may be of a shiny new job title tailored to you, it might not be possible to get one, especially if you’re part of a large, well-established company. Your employers will have to take industry norms, company policy and other employees in your department into consideration. This means there’s a chance you may not be able to change your job title just yet.
However, demonstrating your capability as an employee to your hiring managers can only benefit you - and even if your request is denied you’ll still be in their good books. Showing you’re proactive enough to negotiate a job title change could open up doors for future promotion opportunities.
Your job title is a key way of defining your career identity. Now you can take your career identity into your own hands by negotiating a new job title that fits you like a glove. If you do your research, provide evidence of your accomplishments and create an open dialogue with your employers, you may be able to re-shape your CV without even changing employment.
We know that in some industries, job titles are a little more rigid than in smaller, newer work environments. Don’t despair - even if you are unsuccessful, proving to your employers that you know your worth and contribution to the company will get their attention.
Need more help with progressing in your role? Career frameworks can give you clarity -- they highlight the roles available within an organisation and can help illustrate the skills required for each role. Check out Progression’s free 30-day trial to get an idea of how you and your teammates can start building your role and career pathways.