Job titles are funny thing. Their meanings vary so wildly that they should hold no importance at all. For example, I’ve seen postings for “Senior software developer” where the amount of required experience varied from 5 to over 10 years of experience. That’s a pretty big gap!
Yet, having a title that doesn’t match your responsibilities can hurt your career in significant ways, because the chances of someone being hired for a position that has a title they never held is pretty slim! You might even get rejected by automation without humans ever seeing your resume…
Do titles matter?
I’ve heard that line many times. Usually from someone with a fancy title, “Director of X” or above.
Truth is, when you start a new position, title is one of the principal factor determining your starting salary & benefits. And as I’ve said above, good luck being hired for a title that you never had.
There’s also folks that glorify their title so much, you wonder if they have any kind of identity without it. I’ve even seen gifs in signature to show off titles. I don’t know what to make of those!
So do titles matter? Well, it depends!
Titles SHOULD matter
I think titles should be less a reflection of past achievements, but rather as a representation of current responsibilities.
Each company should be able to define WHAT a title means, especially when it comes to Individual Contributors (folks not part of management).
Let’s take a simple scenario:
- Junior developer
- Intermediate developer
- Senior developer
What’s the difference between the 3? It seems to often be limited to years of experience, but that’s too simplistic in my opinion.
As one’s career grows, I expect that their contributions will affect a wider group, such as being involved in process, architecture, and anything else that will impact more than your own world.
On the other side, if you’ve been working for 10+ years but your contributions are limited to only writing code to the tasks assigned to you, you’re not a “senior”, you’re a junior with a long resume.
A few years ago, I stumble on this great blog post about CircleCI’s engineering career paths. Go check it out, it’s a thing of beauty!
Having well defined roles has multiple benefits such as clear expectations for each positions and tangible career progression paths. You can even frame your performance reviews around this so you have something to talk about! (Sorry, sore subject!)
I think titles tend to have a bad reputation because it’s fairly common to folks who abuse them.
- Wield your title like a weapon
- Judge if others are worth of your time based on their titles
- Use your title as an argument when debating a position
- Reject code review comments from folks with less seniority
Then, sorry to say, you might not be super fun to work with.
But if defined and framed properly, they can add value to both employers and employees alike.