Job Hunting? Avoid that Job Title (Unless It’s a Really Good One)

The prospective client I met yesterday had a great set of skills, and an accomplished career.


The problem? Their type of job – and many of the ones like it – were going away as the industry contracted.

If you hang your hat on your job title, there’s not much left to hold on to when that type of job goes away, either due to technological change (think data entry specialists) or an industry consolidates and you’re trying to move to another sector where your skills are transferable..

The solution?

Define your job in terms of key competencies (e.g., program management, client relations, budget forecasting). When explaining the role talk about it in terms of those key skills followed by something like the phrase “at my current job it’s called a COO. At other places sometimes called. . . ”

When you’re job hunting it helps people to know what you can do, not always what it’s called; one company’s “office manager” may be another firm’s “chief of staff.

The exception? When you’ve got a “heavy” job title (i.e. CEO) which might be really a smaller role (division GM) that you’re trying to parlay into a real CEO role. I’d always recommend avoiding misleading people, but if that’s your job title it’s not your fault that it conveys different things to different people.


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). 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 with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

 CEO: Photo credits:

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