Titles matter!

Kathryn Crawford Saxer Career Management

“They offered me an analyst title,” a coaching client told me. “Do you think titles matter?”

She looked at me funny as I started spluttering.

“The hiring manager told me not to focus on the title,” she said. “The role itself is great — a dream job. But I feel disappointed about the title. Insulted, even.”

My client, a woman of color, had been interviewing for vice president and executive director roles.

“Easy for him to tell me not to focus on the title,” she mused. “He’s a 50-year-old white man with a president title. But seriously, am I making a big thing out of nothing?”

I was still spluttering.

“Yes! Your work title matters!” I exclaim. (I get carried away.)

“Analyst is an awesome title, but it’s only a part of what you do,” I told her. “Having ‘analyst’ as your job title would not accurately reflect the scope of what you are expected to contribute to this organization.”

(Let me be clear that I deeply respect and admire the work of my analyst clients, friends and former colleagues!)

“Your title is part of your work identify,” I continued. “It helps you be effective at work. It connotes status and can influence how your co-workers prioritize your requests. It also can help you make connections and build relationships. It’s part of your first impression.”

According to the Harvard Business Review, titles indeed matter and should be part of your salary negotiation. Your title is “a symbolic representation of what you do and the value that you bring,” HBR quotes Dan Cable, a professor at London Business School.

Your title is “a signal both to the outside world and to your colleagues of what level you are within your organization,” HBR quotes Margaret Neale, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-author of “Getting (More of) What You Want.”

Your title is on your résumé forever, I told my client.

To some extent, future employers will anchor their leveling and salary negotiations off of that title. If you accept a title that undervalues your role, you could risk (tens of? hundreds of?) thousands of dollars in earning power over the course of your career.

“Is that making something out of nothing?” I asked my client.

First published in The Seattle Times. Read my archive of Seattle Times Explore columns.