Written By Kesha Brown
On Friday, January 4, 2002, I returned back to work at Metrocare/Transcare Ambulance. I took a few days off to celebrate the New Years holiday weekend. Back then, I partied hard. I could pull all-nighters. Don’t ask me to pull that off now. It’s not happening. I happily strolled into the office for two reasons: #1, it was Friday: and #2, it was the day I would get to see my raise after working hard all year long. I was a medical biller at that time, earning $9 an hour. I was the only biller who operated two computers to process claims because of how fast I worked. I billed 200+ claims a week, working late most of the time.
I normally ate breakfast before I would start working. That morning, I was eating my favorite: beef sausage with egg, and grits with melted cheese. YUM! Pat, the payroll director, came over to hand me my check. It was a small office, so she normally distributed the checks in person. Everyone was always happy to see her because they know they were getting paid. I waited until she walked off to open my check. I slowly opened my blue pay stub with butterflies in my stomach. There it was, my raise: $0.10.
I was furious. I brought six figures from claims, only to receive a $0.10 raise after one year of hard work? I vented to my fellow coworkers who also received worthless raises. On Monday, I returned to work like nothing ever happened. At that time I was 21 years old. I had no idea that I had options that would have possibly resulted in a higher raise such as negotiating my raise or even asking for something better, like a job title change, which I know now would have added value to my career.
That was one experience out of many that I would never negotiate. I took losses for a very long time. I would settle like many of us. In my 20+ career, I have worked at more than seven jobs. I have had the pleasure to work alongside some of the smartest, interesting, and kindest people on the planet, which comprises of over 1000 people. Eighty percent of those people never realized the importance of their job title. The one thing they focused on was spending years at their job looking forward to getting their raise at the end of the year. That was the highlight of their year, every year, never to stop and ask themselves, Why am I wasting an entire year of my life for a $0.10, $0.20, $0.50 or sometimes a $1.00 raise? One year of my life for $0.10. At that time, $0.10 could buy two pieces of gum. Wow; I was worth two pieces of gum? Unbelievable.
When waiting for raise or a promotion, your job title should also be part of the equation. It’s a signal both to the outside world and to your colleagues of what level you are within your company, so you should be prepared to negotiate it if the presented raise or promotion does not add value to your career.
Why should you care about your job title?
You should care about your job title for several reasons! For starters, it is the truth behind why you are earning $10K less than what you are really worth. When you are seeking a job, your job title will tell your prospective employer three things: your level of competency for the job you are seeking, the salary you earn, and the salary they can offer you. The majority of job offers are based on the last job title on your resume. Your job titles are especially important to position you for future roles.
Let’s dig into some data here.
You have candidate A, an administrative assistant with five years experience applying to an administrative assistant job. You have candidate B, an executive assistant with five years experience applying to the same administrative assistant job. If the employer makes a job offer to either candidate, who do you think will be offered the higher salary? If you guessed executive assistant, you guessed correctly. Although both titles execute almost identical duties because of their job titles, the employer has to make salary offer adjustments. Administrative Assistants earn $40K-48K on average, while executive assistants earn $50K-65K on average.
Of course, educational credentials and experience can influence how much they both are offered, but, based on the simple fact of their job titles, executive assistance has the head start. Your job title definitely has the edge to give you the career boost you have been waiting for.
Do these before you make the move to ask for a job title change
Reflect: The first step in negotiating or renegotiating is soul-searching. Why do you want a certain title? And why do you think you deserve it? These are things you need to think through to figure out if you should even make the request. If you’ve been at your company a while, it may be that your scope and responsibilities have expanded but your title is the same, and you’re still being paid a level below what you’re currently doing. In that case, a discussion with your boss is probably justified. Or perhaps you’re contemplating new opportunities and want to put yourself in a better position, since prospective employers might use your title as an indicator of how much money you earn. In NYC, where requesting your salary history is now banned from the hiring process, your title is a way for future employers to figure out your salary expectations. And if you’ve been offered a position at another company, negotiating your title could be a way to tweak your job responsibilities to do more of what you love. Think of it as an opportunity to customize the role more to your skills and interests.
Do your homework: The second step involves identifying a specific title that accurately reflects your expertise, responsibilities, and status within the company. Use resources like PayScale, Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor to look at the titles of peers at different companies. Also, think about what job title would make you feel most valued and empowered. Think about why you’re effective. For instance, imagine that you’re a “human resources assistant” at a company but what you’re really good at is training people. In this case, you might ask for “Lead Trainer” to be added to your title, because that’s the area where you shine. At the same time, you must be mindful of what’s realistic within the context of your company and industry. In every company, there is a hierarchy. And your title needs to provide information about your level within it. If you’re planning to ask for an over-the-top title, make sure you have a more traditional equivalent. For instance, if you ask for the title of “Director of People and Culture,” your business card might spell out that you’re also “Director of Human Resources.”
When is the best time to negotiate your job title?
The best time is NOW, and here are all of the scenarios in which you can make it happen.
The first scenario is when you receive a job offer. If you know that the job title will not do justice for your career but you are considering it because the salary is decent, negotiate the title change before you officially accept the job. You have one leg up because the employer is already interested in you so they will be more lenient to make any accommodations before you hop on board.
The second scenario is after completing a year in a specific role with exceptional performance. Have a sit-down with your supervisor, and let them know how much the company benefited from your contribution and tell them that you would like a title change. Be prepared with facts outlining all the ways you helped the company thrive.
The third scenario is after your next performance evaluation, have a discussion with your boss about your desire for a title that reflects the work that you do for the company. You do not need to reveal your ulterior motives by saying it is in line with your career objectives. Keep that to yourself. You want the discussion to focus on you and the company not what you want down the line.
Stop over-thinking and take the chance and ask your employer for an upgraded job title. Some employers are flexible in this area because they may not have it in the budget to give you a monetary raise. If they approve your request, just make sure you receive it in writing. Although word of mouth is still valid, it is better to cover yourself to get it on paper. Getting it on paper includes getting a promotion letter and/or email notification.
How to leverage your job title to take your career to the next level
Did you know that something as simple as getting a job title change has a big impact on your day-to-day happiness and engagement at your job? It is a symbolic representation of what you do and the value that you bring. We all know what happens when you perform better at work: yes, you get more opportunities for growth. This can open the floodgate for opportunities. A different title also positions you to seek opportunities that will allow you to grow in your career. For example, imagine if you were a receptionist and requested a title change to administrative assistant. The change gives you a $10K boost in salary, should you be interested in exploring another job outside of where you are currently stationed.
My advice is this: I always say it is better to negotiate a new job title rather than asking for a raise because a job title is worth more to your career. A job title is a sure-fire way to boost your career and give you the edge that you need to stand out from the crowd. Remember to always keep your resume up to date and make sure your job title is accurate. It is time to make uncomfortable requests. Where there is discomfort, there is growth.
Make 2019 the year you jumpstart your career by asking for the job title you deserve and have been dreaming about! #Cheers