If you have been to enough networking events, you’ll surely noticed the most common question, other than asking for your name, is what do you do?
Over the years, I’ve learned to alter my job title depending on the situation. If I’m in a tech event, then I’ll introduce myself as Software Developer. Normally, they may follow up with asking what language (programming language) I work with and all the techie stuff.
For almost all other cases, I’ll go with Software Programmer. It usually does the job of communicating that I write code for a living. Saying I’m a developer will confuse some people as they think I build physical buildings instead of software systems.
Your job title tells us nothing about you
However in both cases, there will be follow up questions to enquire more about what exactly I do at my job. This made me realised that our job titles are horrible at communicating what you actually do day in and day out at work.
A job title could tell you which department the person works in and their seniority in the organisation. But since job titles mean different things in different companies, you could only guess what their responsibilities are.
A Sales Executive in Company A could be doing the work of a Sales Manager in Company B. A CEO of a company with 200 employees is not the same as a CEO of a 2-man startup.
The title you have is simply a label and pretty bad one at that. All it does is generalise the work you do.
Your job title doesn’t reflect the actual skills you have
The reason you are hired by a company is to provide some value with your skills and effort. A programmer is hired for his or her programming skills. All is well if every programmer is created equal but we actually live in the real world.
It’s not just about the type of language you code in or where you graduated from. Your technical skills aren’t the only skills that make you valuable for the company.
Your leadership skill. Your communication skill. Your presentation skill. All these are actual skills needed to get stuff done and improve the bottom line. Your skills are more than what you majored in.
And none of these are reflected by your job title. You may have the same title as your peer but you bring a unique skill set to the team. Job titles aren’t made to communicate your uniqueness to the world.
Your job title is just a way to keep you in check
There are good reasons for job titles. It makes it easier for HR departments and companies to manage people. It’s easier if everyone have a standard title with a standard pay scale.
It’s also easier to fit you into the organisation chart. Everyone have their place in the chart and career progression is clear. All you have to do is to climb up the ranks like everyone else.
And if you do decide to call it quits, you are easily replaceable. All they need to do is to post a job opening with the same title as the one you had and viola, they will have someone doing your job in no time.
None of these are good for you. All it does is limit your growth and treat you as a cog of the system. You must not let your job title define who you are.
Forget the title, focus on your skills
Don’t plan your career path by chasing titles after titles. Obviously, you will need to move up the ladder, get promoted in order to be rewarded for your hard work.
But the title should not be your goal. Instead, focus on acquiring skills fitting for someone with that title. If you want to be a manager, then it’s time to brush up your management skill. If you think you are ready to lead, then show them you can rally the team.
The best way to ensure a great career is to focus on growing yourself. Understand how you bring value to the company and do your best to improve that. Constantly learn and level up yourself with more skills.
If you are working at a company that values your contributions, you will be rewarded. But if they are oblivious to the value you bring, well you can always move on.
Job titles may be given but your skills are yours to keep. You get to call the shot and decide which organisation get to benefit from your awesomeness. Stop focusing on job titles and pay more attention to your skills.