Job Title Traps and How They Can Snare You

Do you remember your first job title? In business mine was coordinator—Consumer Education Programs. Oh, that sounded so sweet to me.

Our first jobs are where we get our feet wet and start to showcase our talents. The plan is usually to upgrade our titles for swankier ones that come with higher salaries. 

The traps await 

Companies create titles to define their hierarchy and manage payroll. They write titles they hope we want to wear. 

Unfortunately, titles aren’t always what they seem to be. They can become traps, manipulations, and disguises, like this: 

Playing to your ego—We’re told we have the “potential” for a higher level job. Even though we don’t particularly want either the job or the accountabilities, we opt in, unable to resist the expected  roar of the crowd. (Trap)

Being placated—After we tell our boss (who’s been standing in our way) a hundred times that we’re frustrated about our careers, we’re given a fancy new job title and a new pay grade but our work stays the same. (Manipulation)

Inflating roles—Most often done at high levels, companies will reward loyal but dead-ended employees with fancier titles, like senior and executive VP, or even special assistant to the CEO, but the scope of their work doesn’t change. (Disguise)

Diluting value—Increasing the number of employees with titles like VP, director, and senior manager reduces the significance/importance/influence of the role, often positioning under-qualified people in them. (Trap)

Resetting pay scales—When companies need to put the lid on payroll costs, they often implement a re-titling initiative that eliminates certain titles, replacing them with others rated lower. Your new title might sound important, but it now has a reduced pay range. (Manipulation) 

I’ve been boggled throughout my career by some of my own title experiences. I was: 

  • “Promoted” from consumer programs manager to management training supervisor, and never understood why the supervisor job paid more, but it did
  • Promoted from customer services manager to director-customer services with a huge change in scope but no change in salary
  • “Rehired” based on a reorganization, going from director-customer services to manager-business management services (whatever that meant) but my salary wasn’t affected 

In the end, the question is: “So what?” 

Achievement isn’t a title

Titles should indicate expertise, influence, and alignment. Some titles that do the well and others don’t. 

I am a big of fan Suzanne Lucas, blogger at Evil HR Lady (her tongue-in-cheek handle) and BNET. She recently wrote the spot on post, “Does Your Title Matter? Plus Free Chocolate!” (You’ll have to go there to learn about the chocolate!) 

Suzanne writes: 

“Here is my worst job title ever: Functional Lead, HR Transition.  Do you have any idea what my job responsibilities were?  Of course you don’t, unless you are one of the many people I helped ‘transition’ out of the company over the years…
And that’s the problem with bad titles.  No one that doesn’t know what you do, can figure out what it is that you do.  Now, most of the time, this makes no difference.” 

Titles only becomes traps if we let them. Just because, the company puts us in a title box doesn’t mean we’re trapped in it. 

Titles mean nothing. Results do. If you’re puffing yourself up or dragging yourself down because of your title, snap out of it. 

When someone asks you, “What do you do?” Answer the question with content, not your job title. What your title means in your company is likely not what it means in someone else’s. 

Suzanne sums it up this way:

“It’s not what your title is that really matters, it’s what you do and what your compensation is that you should be fighting for.” 

It’s a lot more important to let people know, both inside and outside your company, that you’re doing valuable work. Get people to brand you by your contribution, not your title. That’s how you’ll get to next rung of the ladder if that’s your aim.

Photo from Alex E. Proimos via Flickr

Employees Underperforming? Get Their Attention! | Supervise for Accountability

Work’s piling up. You’re worn out. Finally, you get the okay to hire.  You’re pumped. Relief is in sight. Truth is: Employees are work. Actually, they’re your job.

Employees, especially new ones,  mean that you’re faced with:

  • Job orientation and training
  • “What do I do now” questions
  • Reluctance to make decisions when you’re not around
  • “I didn’t think that was my job” disclaimers 

So where’s your relief? You’re not totally free of the work you hired for, because it’s still in your head, and the people you hired to do it feel like an added burden.

Take heart. The time you invest developing your employees will deliver big rewards.

Be clear about employee accountabilities. 

The biggest mistake is hiring people to complete a string of tasks. Look at your job descriptions. My guess is that they describe responsibilities, duties, and/or tasks.

If you want employees to lighten your load and add value to your business, hold them accountable for results. That means the tasks/duties they complete must be the means to the ends that you need.

Here’s how you link tasks and accountabilities (also referred to as results or outcomes):

  • Process customer claims (task) within 48 hours, ensuring a positive interactive experience for the customer (result)
  • Maintain product inventory (task), ensuring availability to meet monthly demand (result)
  • Market services to clients (task), averaging 5% conversion to sales monthly (result)
  • Complete administrative reports (task) within the first 5 days of the new month (result) 

Employees need to know what they are expected to contribute to the success of the business. It’s not just about being busy doing tasks. It’s about doing work that counts.

The next big question, of course, is: “How do supervisors and business owners motivate employees to do their best work?”

Being “in” on things matters most. 

Repeatedly, studies have been done on what motivates employees. We always think that must be money, but it isn’t. Actually, we all want to feel like we’re important enough to be in the know.

Supervisors who want to bring out the best in their employees share relevant information and make them part of what’s going on.

They can pump up the motivation and ability of employees to do their “best” when they:

  • Engage employees in decision-making about things that will affect them (i.e., scheduling, work processes, equipment purchases, working conditions)
  • Involve them in the root cause analysis of work that “went wrong” (i.e., customer problems, accidents, equipment failure, miscommunications)
  • Ask them for ideas, innovations, and insights (i.e., new products, procedures, work processes)
  • Give them visibility with customers, vendors, suppliers, and management
  • Take them to see similar business operations in other companies or to visit departments they impact in their own company
  • Give them business cards, reminding them that they are representatives of the company and impact its brand

 Talk to your employees. 

Reinforce each employee’s accountabilities monthly. That means a face-to-face dialogue about:

  • how they are doing
  • what they may be uncertain about
  • how ready they are to take on more responsibilities
  • what help they need from you, and
  • what they can do to get better 

This is where the two of you talk about your expectations and how you can  support to each other. It is not a performance review;  it a conversation.

Becoming the “best” is a team effort. 

Setting the bar attainably high is the best thing you can do for your business and your employees. Employees who think they’re being set up for failure won’t make the effort. Those who believe their supervisor is counting on them to succeed will knock themselves out to deliver. If that isn’t the case, then that employee is the wrong fit and may need to move on.

Supervisors who use the smart moves for achieving business fitness with their employees create an individual development culture that delivers success all around. Nothing beats an employee team making it happen!

What approaches have you experienced that helped employees become their “best”?  What made them work? Any cautions? Thanks.

Suffering from Resumophobia? | A Remedy for Job Seekers

The dreaded resume! Every job seeker desperately needs one but no one wants to write one. Why? Because it’s agony. 

The irony is that we fear our resume—the very thing that is our entry ticket to the job we want. Since we resist the things we fear, we put off writing it or suffer major distress when we must. Our concern: “What if my resume isn’t good enough!” 

Our “resumophobia” has three main causes: 

  • Frustrating uncertainty about what recruiters/businesses want
  • Doubt or confusion about the value of what we’ve done
  • Lack of confidence in our ability to write it “right” 

These are legitimate and paralyzing reasons. But we cannot succumb to them. Why? Because—no resume…no interview. No interview…no chance. 

The resume is a rite of passage in nearly every job search

There are lots of great books and experts to teach you how to craft a great resume. What I’m offering are insights that will unfreeze your thinking, so you can get started. 

Your resume is packaging. 

It is not a biography, a job description, or a sales pitch. It’s your box! 

The content of a good resume showcases concrete results that you have achieved in other jobs. It contains the products (results) that you created. So when you write your resume, make sure it is about important outcomes you delivered. Not everything you ever did—just the most significant results.

 Your resume is a picture. 

A resume is art and you want the viewer to be absorbed by yours. 

Great artists control the eye of the viewer. Great resumes do that too. The screener’s first scan needs to spot something of interest. That means you need to: 

  • Position important facts where the eye falls

Don’t make screeners struggle to find what they’re looking for. When they come to your resume, they will scan down the middle. So make sure that their eyes will land on the words, job titles, and achievements they are looking for. Highlight in bold the words that link what you accomplished to the duties listed in the job posting. 

  • Create white space so the eye has relief. 

Wading through resumes is visually exhausting. White space is relief so use a font size that isn’t too small. Avoid dense copy since it sends the message that you couldn’t identify your priority accomplishments and don’t know how to write concisely. Use bullets, avoid paragraphs. 

  • Include interesting information that keeps the eye reading. 

Everyone brings their own uniqueness to their jobs. Capturing that in a resume differentiates us from other candidates. So be sure to mention a fresh approach you may have taken to a routine work process or to an initiative that you led.

The sections called “interests,” “activities,” and “affiliations” are your big finish. Interesting tidbits there often turn out to be the “big opening” during an interview. 

Your resume is your voice. 

The tone of your written words becomes the sound of your voice. That’s the only glimpse of your personality that the screener will get from your resume. When your words are clean and clear, precise and easy, they create a sense of your nature, your confidence, and your approach to work. 

Please remember: 

  • The screener is your audience
  • Your purpose is to provide an honest, factual story about your work life 

If resume writing still intimidates you, if you are having a difficult time sorting through all that you have done, or if you have some unfortunate “wrinkles” in your work history, investing in some professional assistance may be in order. 

The bottom line is that it’s always a good idea to have an up-to-date resume on file, especially in these times. Enough said! 

Do you have a specific question about resumes that you’d like discussed? I’m sure you’ll get some help here.