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There is a famous saying for writers: “You are only as good as your last book.”
To apply it to careers, “You are only as good as your last job title.”
Let’s be honest. It’s a stupid way to measure a person, but alas, our corporations revolve around great many things that do not focus on individuals, but are rather about finding most efficient way to handle volume.
This is not an absolute fact. The type of jobs you may be able to get will depend a lot not only just on your experience, but your personality, your know-how of the market, and your ability to network. But what if you are just applying for jobs through normal channels, such as online or through newspapers, like millions of people?
In that instance, the only thing your potential employer is seeing is your resume or the application.
And most companies tend to follow the rules, and do the things the way they have always done them. That means, someone in HR, probably an assistant, scans through the CVs, and in that quick glances, job titles is what that person would be looking for. If the titles seem relevant, then they may read the details.
Job titles, matter.
They are the key words through which you are advertising yourself.
What that means is that when you take a new job, you need to consider not only the job itself, but also what the given title implies for your future opportunities.
During my early purchasing career, one of my first job titles was “Vendor Controller”. Vendor is a synonym for Supplier, so really, I was a Supplier Controller. However, one of the questions I got asked the most was, “So you deal with vending machines?”
Eventually, I just changed the title to “Supplier Controller” on my resume. If I’d known better, I would have done so from the very beginning. You can change the titles on your resume, but be aware that it may get confusing if your potential employer calls that previous employer for a reference, and they both end up talking about different job titles. They may assume you were lying.
The best solution, instead, is to make sure that you have the right job title in each of your positions. You can negotiate this with your employer. The best timings for it are either when you start the job, or at promotion times, or when you take on added responsibilities. You need to be careful though, because your employer probably doesn’t want to hear that you are planning your next move.
However, to manage your job titles, and effectively manage your career, you need to know what your approach and strategies are going to be. That’s when a career journal comes in. If you are not sure how to keep a career journal or why you should keep one, read this article.
Make a list of all your job titles up to your current position. If that was the only thing you knew about someone, what would that tell you? Do those title show a common theme, or are they all over the place? Do they show progression? Do they show someone who is moving up in the industry? Do they show someone who goes from one job to the next? Do they show stability?
Write down your thoughts. Think about what image just those titles are portraying to the person reading it.
Now think about the future job titles you want to have. Where do you want to end up in your chosen career? Make a note of potential job titles.
Compare your existing job titles with your future job titles. Are they on the same trajectory? Can you see someone with your previous job titles, reaching your future job titles?
If so, great. You are on the right path.
If not, or if you have doubts, you can start thinking about what you need to make your path to your future titles easier. What experience or what new job titles do you need to get? Do you need to change directions in your career? Do you need to participate in extra activities, or networking events? Come up with at least ten different things you can do to make your future job titles more attainable.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE TODAY
Get your career journal out, and start doing the above exercise.