Job Different than Your Job Title? Here’s A Simple Way to Explain It

It never ceases to be an interesting world in which we work.

Job titles have morphed (inflated would be another word) as companies have paid in title to augment what formerly would have been paid in compensation, or have countered the title inflation of their competition – like Dr. Seuss’ Butter Battle War – with inflated titles of their own.

Jobs that would have at one point would have been called division general managers now have CEO titles, and roles that would have been a Customer Service Manager might now be titled Global Head of Customer Service.

While it’s the rare – and honest – person who explains down their oversized title to more accurately convey their actual, smaller role, most of the rub comes with people who have bigger jobs than what their title suggests.

As an exec coaching client (names / areas changed) framed it to me recently,

“How do I convey to people that I have broader scope and influence than is conveyed in my resume?  My current title is VP of XYZ but the reality is that:

  • The COO views me as his number 2 and relies on me for most matters related to operations (someone who can integrate and distill key points of supply chain, inventory turn and control, purchasing strategies) and the resulting service and financial implications for him.
  • Critical issues/decisions in operations (even outside of my direct line of control) often don’t happen without me being consulted or bought in.

The key is that I haven’t been able to find way to express that succinctly without personally feeling– arrogant, delusional (I’ve had candidates who tried to tell me their impact was bigger though I knew better and that was off putting), trying too hard.”

Like a number of things in life, the best answer may be the most direct and simplest, and can help give you some easy tools to handle the situation. Here’s my suggestion based on 25+ years working with execs and corporations.

My job with ABC is as the VP of XYZ. In my role with the firm, that title means the following:

  • I’m responsible for the specific functional area of purchasing and inventory control,
  • The COO views me as his number 2 and relies on me for most matters related to operations (someone who can integrate and distill key points of supply chain, inventory turn and control, purchasing strategies) and the resulting service and financial implications for him.
  • Critical issues/decisions in operations (even outside of my direct line of control) often don’t happen without me being consulted or bought in.

No clever made up lines or long drawn out explanation. The same approach, by the way, works for people with titles that are much bigger than their job. Keep the explanation simple, keep it factual, and make sure the person to whom you’re speaking understands that what the title you carry means – like differentiating between Canadian, Australian or US dollars – is clear and crisp.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). J. Mike Smith is a San Franciosco-based career, executive and team coach with an international practice. More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview at WhoHub, as well as participate in a learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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