I saw this article on LinkedIn and thought you would enjoy the content. What is in a title? The takeaway is anyone can have a fancy title, but your personal brand speaks with much more authority.
How To Keep Your Title From Holding You Back
September 04, 2013
I don’t like job titles. Never have, and probably never will.
I once visited a company with 9 Vice Presidents: There was a VP of Marketing, a VP of Sales, a VP of Engineering, a VP of Finance, a VP of Operations…you get the idea.
Funny thing was, the company only employed 10 people. “Why so many VPs?” I asked the only non-VP. (He, of course, was President and CEO.) “Clients, suppliers, vendors…everyone wants access to people who can make decisions,” he replied. “I make every employee a VP so they will be taken seriously.”
Job titles are often meaningless except for convenience and coarse classification. Job titles don’t describe and they definitely don’t define employees, much less what employees are capable of doing. We’ve all known programmers who do much more than program and salespeople who do much more than sell… and, conversely, managers who barely manage to manage, much less lead and motivate and inspire. And, don’t even get me started on directors, VPs and other hierarchical designations.
I’m disappointed when short-sighted people judge someone on their title and think “She’s a director, not a VP, she can’t be that important or influential.”
So don’t let your job title hold you back. Don’t let your job title define you as an employee or as a person.
1. Never view your job title as a ceiling…
Your title should never act as a limit to what you want to achieve. Never think, “I’m only a manager… that’s something a VP should do.”
If what you want to do helps the company, and you have the skills or talent to do it – do it.
Wait. Let me rephrase that. If it helps the company, do it – because chances are you can do it.
2… And never view your job title as a floor.
Think you’ve already paid your dues? Think you’re too good to get your hands dirty?
No matter what you might have done or accomplished in the past, it’s always a good thing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. At my company, HubSpot, we believe no matter what your job title is — everybody does real work and gets their hands dirty.
The best people never think a task is beneath them.
And, it’s not just a matter of humility and teamwork (both of which are important). Staying plugged in to things that are not necessarily “your job” is a great way to be even better at your “real” job.
3. Never view any task or project as “above your pay grade.”
Some people wait until they have the job – or the salary that goes with it – to perform some of the duties of that job. Ever heard someone say, “If they promote me then I definitely work harder”? Or, “If I got paid more, then I would do more”?
The best way to earn a promotion is to do more than is expected. The best way to earn a raise is to first deliver greater value. Every successful person I know feels that hard work comes before the payoff – not after. The surest way to get a raise in the future is to do things now that are above your current salary.
Most people expect to be compensated more before they will even consider doing work above their pay grade. See compensation and promotion as the reward for going above and beyond, not the driver.
4. Never assume that job titles translate across companies or industries.
The world is starting to figure out that job titles have very different meanings. You might be a manager at your firm, but are qualified to be a VP at another firm. A supervisor at one company may have the responsibility and authority of a manager at another company. In some ways job titles are like college degrees; sure, you might have the diploma… but what did you learn and, more importantly, what can you do with what you learned?
Don’t assume that an “inferior” job title disqualifies you from an opportunity. Smart companies hire based on the skills, abilities, experience, work ethic, and talent you bring – not just your previous job title.
5. Never see a title as “compensation.”
In the startup world, prospective employees look for salary, benefits, stock… and job titles. Some entrepreneurs think the cheapest thing to give a new employee is a lofty job title, because a job title costs nothing.
In most cases a job title is also worth nothing, especially to you. Authority, responsibility, control, freedom… those things matter, but those things are not automatically conferred by a job title.
It’s fun to have a resume that shows a consistently rising trend in terms of job titles, but what really matters is what you accomplished in each of those jobs.
A job title isn’t the icing on the salary and perks cake. A job title is like the candle – because while you can eat the icing, you can’t eat the candle. Then again, maybe job titles are not even the candle — because they don’t add much illumination either. Have I mentioned I don’t like job titles?
6. And if you’re an entrepreneur…
If you’re just starting a company, avoid formal titles as long as you can. Arbitrary titles, and the implied hierarchy they create, are simply not worth it. I’m all for clarity in roles/jobs: “Hey, you should be responsible for making sure our database cluster stays up.” That’s much better than “Hey, you’re VP of Database Operations”.
In the first few years at HubSpot, when people introduced themselves to each other inside the company they didn’t use titles. Instead of saying, “I’m the VP of Marketing,” they said, “I work on the marketing team.” Though outside the company we sometimes needed titles, internally we didn’t pay them much heed. We just focused on getting things done, because what a person does matters a lot more than, say, who a person manages.
Focus on developing skills and fostering achievement, not on job titles.
Focus on helping great employees earn greater responsibility and the rewards that come with it.
For more on my take on company culture (including job titles), check out the slide deck “Culture Code” included below.