Appearances mean a lot to most of us, from the labels we wear and where we live to our job titles. It’s the social norm when meeting a new person to ask, “What do you do for a living?” And although some of us may not be completely conscious of it, we place a lot of stock in our answer. We grow up with the mantra “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but in all reality, we are all guilty of judging others, no matter how hard we try not to.
We are often judged by what we do when it comes to first impressions, and the bigger the title, the more respect we deserve in the eyes of others. It can be hard to give up a title like “lead manager,” “editor in chief,” or even “CEO,” for a job that makes you happier. But, I speak from experience when I say that sticking with a job because of it’s title is like paying $2,000 for a Puggle – when it comes down to it, it’s really just a mutt.
I learned this firsthand when after just a few weeks as an intern, I was promoted to the coveted editor position of one of San Diego’s largest travel and tourism websites. My boss chalked it up to my “can-do” attitude and ability to conquer any challenge. It came with a menial raise (barely noticeable) and a few new business cards, but none of that mattered because I was an editor. I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was going to tackle this task, all I knew was that I was given the title and it was time to fill the shoes. Over the next few months, I fumbled around learning the ins and outs of travel sites through trial and error and somehow ended up transforming the failing website into one that actually made a profit.
I was also taking full advantage of editor perks, flashing my business cards around town and reaping the benefits of it with free cruises, comped concerts and dinners, and a sudden flurry of social activities on my calendar. It was fun, exciting, and definitely felt good to meet a stranger and tell them what I did, but in reality, it wasn’t what I wanted. Sure the perks were great, but I was being worked to the bone, paid pennies, and constantly struggling to keep my head above water. I thought I’d run with it for a while, learn everything I could, and use it as a major stepping stone for my resume, but when it was time to move on, I had a hard time letting go of the title.
What’s in a title anyway?
Absolutely nothing. You can slap a big title on anything and make it sound better than it is. We get attached to titles and personas. Being called “editor” felt good and gave me some additional unearned respect among my peers, but really I was doing the same work everyone else was with a little more clout.
When I finally made the real decision to move on and job hunt, I quickly realized just how little that editor title was doing for me. Other companies had a starting salary that was higher than what I was making, better benefits, and a friendlier environment. I ditched the title and took a new job without the glitz and glam, but that made me a lot happier and put some money in my pocket. I may not be attending the biggest parties and rubbing elbows with the who’s who of San Diego any longer, but I have a job that makes me happy. I work for an awesome company and most importantly, I’m doing work that I’m proud of.
So, what can job seekers learn from this?
Basically, don’t jump at a job because it has a great title. Take a closer look at the jobs you are applying for and open your mind to the less high-profile positions, because they may be exactly what you’re looking for. Sure a big title can feel good, but just like any relationship, eventually the butterflies wear off and you’re left with what’s in front of you. Don’t let yourself be romanced by the title, choose your next professional position based upon the work, environment, and how much the employers respect their employees. There are many more important aspects to a job than what’s on your business card and if it means that much to you, you can always call yourself something fancy like a mobile sustenance facilitator instead of a pizza delivery guy – no one will know the difference.