Sunday, August 16, 2009

Read between the lines

"Job titles don't mean shit," he said. (Okay, so maybe I took some "creative liberties" there. Sue me.)

I was a young kid with only a few years' of experience trying to claw my way up the corporate ladder by taking new jobs with more responsibilities. At that moment, I was arguing about wanting to pursue jobs that had specific titles with Ryan Abbott, a "wet behind the ears," junior recruiter at some no-name agency. (He is now, by the way, the Director of Recruiting at Tuttle and is one of only two recruiters that I trust completely).

Ryan's argument was that job titles vary from company to company but job responsibilities will always tell the true story. (A running joke from when I worked on Wall Street was that even the janitorial staff had the title AVP. Does this sound familiar in your company or industry?) During the interview process, the person asking the questions will be able to tell if you are a director level person in title only or in reality.

The beginning of a somewhat famous proverb goes like this: if you saw a man walking down the street in a finely made, Italian suit made of hand cut silk you'd immediately know that they bought it at a tailor.

The question that I pose to my audience this week is: do people know that are you a tailor? Can someone tell what you are capable of by looking at what you've done? And, more importantly, does it matter what titles you've held in the past?

Consider the following: never in my life have I held the title Technical Account Manager (TAM). But I have been a very successful one before by virtue of the fact that I was at one point in my career responsible for 57 accounts varying in size from very small to very large. In this company there did not exist a formally defined TAM role. Instead, the responsibilities of the role were delegated to my peers and me, and I did everything that you would expect from someone with these responsibilities.

So would I let the fact that I've never had the official title stop me from applying for these types of positions? Never. In fact, I am probably more familiar with this role due to the success that I enjoyed than I am with other positions that I had in an official capacity, so why shouldn't I pursue these types of positions?

The hat trick here is to sell yourself. Read between your own lines to determine the types of positions for which you are not only qualified but would excel in doing, and then include them in your stable of career possibilities for the road ahead.

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