Why Job Titles Can Actually Hurt Your Job Search

By Will Thomson

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This could quite possibly be one of the toughest questions to answer in recruiting today. The reason it is such a tough question is because it is a double-edged sword.  Everyone wants to be promoted. Everyone wants to advance their career.  Almost everyone wants a bigger title. A bigger title typically means more pay.  Once you have it though, is it actually helping you or hindering you?

In the United States, titles are tossed around like a bull rider riding a bull.  Truthfully, a Director, a VP, an Account Executive, a Business Development Representative may be all doing the EXACT SAME JOB!  It is quite ridiculous actually.  Companies give job titles to candidates to make them want to STAY at their company.  Is it prestige?  Do employees get a sense that they are building their career?  I don’t know.  It is just crazy though.

I laugh at this topic because you can call me whatever the hell you want.  I have been called President, thought leader, resume writer, chief bullshit officer and many other things I don’t want to list here.  Truthfully, I am one thing.  I am a recruiter.  You, too, are something.

Let’s break it down.

Are you a sales guy?  Are you an engineer? Are you a doctor?  Are you a lawyer?  Are you one of those JAVA or Coding peeps? (which by the way, I have no idea what in the hell you do)  Yes, you too are something.  You may have advanced your career, but on a high level you still do some of the same things you did when you started your career.

Let’s look at a sales person’s career.  As a salesperson, you probably started out your career doing lead generation.  Once you got good at lead generation, you will advance your career to do inside sales.  When you get great at inside sales, it is inevitable that someone will tap you on your shoulder to do outside or “field” sales.  If you are killing your quota, management will ask you to manage a team and you will become a Sales Manager.  Once you become good enough at managing your sales team, you will be asked to run multiple sales managers as a Regional Sales Manager.  After you become a Regional Sales Manager, the CEO will want you to report to him and then they will call you a VP.

You see your title does change.  Your duties do change.  Once you reach the VP title, does that mean that you can’t sell anymore though? No.  It means just the opposite.  Think about this – instead of calling yourself a VP the next time you look for a job, maybe you should consider calling yourself a Sales Executive.  Really & truly, just like I call myself a recruiter, a sales person is WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU DO.

So, who really cares about a title?  Get over your ego for a minute…  I have encountered a number of people over the past couple of years who have reached the VP level and have had a great deal of difficulty finding their next job.  Employers are quick to dismiss candidates who have reached the VP level, stating that they are “overqualified”.  It is sad, but it is reality. Job Title 2

As I sit in my early 40’s, I have watched a large number of my colleagues do tremendous things with their careers.  They have built sales teams.  They have achieved success in sales that others have not achieved and now they are ready for their next challenge.They are faced with the tough decisions about titles.

Really and truly, what do you think my colleagues really want to do?  They want to sell, make money, provide for their families and work for a fun and exciting company.   Isn’t that all that really matters anyway?

It is tough to hear.  I know many of you reading this are shaking your head “YES!” as you are reading this. You worked SO HARD to get the title that you wanted. You thought the title would bring you all of the glory and it would make every job you went after going forward extremely easy to get.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes it makes it harder to get a great job with a big title.

So, the next time someone asks what you do for a living, make it simple.  Tell them what you really do for a living.  If you are making the money that you want and the job is fulfilling, then you have all you really need.

Let me ask you this.   Do you agree?  Have you encountered the same issues?  I would love to hear them.

About the Author:

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Will Thomson is the Founder & President of Bulls Eye Recruiting,  a boutique recruiting agency focused on finding top tier sales, marketing and HR talent for organizations. What started as a blog in 2012 has quickly become one of the most recognizable brands and recruiting firms in recruiting today.  His blog has been awarded best career blog over a dozen times in the past three years and he speaks around the US about recruiting and social recruiting. You can follow him on twitter @WillRecruits


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