Inflated Job Titles
It’s understandable that early in your career you’re eager to move up the corporate ladder and make a name for yourself. There’s no secret formula as to how this is done. What I’ve noticed though is many people are opting to take the job title-inflating short-cuts instead. Rather than earning it, many give themselves a more prestigious (and totally undeserved) title upgrade. Does anyone else not find it strange to come across someone two years out of college calling himself a VP of Business Development? Then you find out this “guru” is one of three people who make up the entire company. His partner also happens to be the CEO, CFO, and COO – very impressive indeed! The title alone is no competitive advantage.
Although you might feel some sense of pride when you hand out a business card with this flashy title, the truth is you’re not doing yourself any favors. Do you really think you’ll be able to hold a conversation with another VP counterpart who approaches you? Of course not – you’ll be exposed and embarrassed immediately. When recruiters are hunting for someone with your background and skill-set, you will be overlooked. When I conduct a search on Linkedin to gather a sample of online prospects, I look at the obvious choices presented before me. If a portfolio company needs help building a sales team and wants someone with 2-3 years of experience, I look for fitting titles like Account Executive, Sales Associate, Business Development Representative, etc. What action do I take when I see a VP of Sales? I mosey on right past that profile because I assume it’s irrelevant. Don’t let that be you.
What do you call yourself then if you’re one of a few employees in a small start-up? At the very worst case, call yourself a “manager” of something. Over the years, the essence of this title has shifted. It no longer necessarily means someone who directly supervises other personnel. A manager could also simply refer to a task or project owner and include no one else, but himself. Genuine discrepancies in titles do exist and that can’t be helped. I often see this when comparing medium to large enterprises. Sometimes a VP at an expansion stage or a medium sized company really is equivalent to a Director at a large corporation. These factors are taken into consideration. As a professional and potential candidate, all you have to worry about is being real with yourself and the rest will take care of itself.