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What’s In A Title? How Your Identity At Work Now Can Shape Your Future

How much do job titles matter, really?

By Lightspring/Shutterstock
By Lightspring/Shutterstock

I’ve been working in the Human Resources/Workforce Development space for twenty years and have been a part of so many conversations involving employees and their requests for specific titles.

In the companies I have worked for, the title itself is not a priority – it’s about the compensation and work content. In my work building and creating inclusive workforces, I have found this to be a roadblock. So how can closing the title gap help us close the wage gap?

In a time when women are statistically not in positions of leadership and control in organizations, a lot of work is being done in professional development to ensure that women are given opportunities for it. But the issue is not in the development of the employee, but in how the employee identifies herself and how that aligns with the company’s organizational structure.

It is said that women function with a “realistic” lens. This is what I’m working on, this is where I should be. However, men function with a “potential” lens. This is what I’m working on, but this is where I could be.

This lens is an essential part of how employees see themselves and how they progress in the workplace. In a company that offers opportunity, it really is about what I can be more than what I am.

To be able to advance in an organization, to be able to fill those C-suite level spots, who you were and who you are now is a key indicator of who you are going to be. So how do we fix this?

1) Know what you’re working with.

Take a vested interest in the positions and titles in your company. What are they? What does your leadership team look like? Are there a lot of middle management positions and fewer C-suite level positions?

Knowing how your organization is structured and how the position titles fit in the company will better help you to understand where you fit. If you don’t know, ask. It doesn’t hurt to find out.

This conversation can take place with your manager, your director, or your president. Find someone who can help clarify the structure for you.

2) Identify yourself.

Where are you right now in your career? What is your current title? Do you know what that looks like?

Make a list of what you do and how it relates to your title. Is there a straight connection? Or is there a disconnect? Do you feel like what you’re doing is really who you are?

Find the holes that may exist. Check to see if what you think you are is really who you are. These holes and the identification of them can be used at your next performance review. Don’t have one? Ask for one.

3) Invest in yourself.

What skills do you possess? What is your experience with these skills? Are these identifiable skills? What about your leadership skills? Are you a leader? Take an inventory of your skills and experience.

This does not just apply to specific professional skills. What about the other behavioral skills you possess? The ones you use to interact with your team members, with your managers, and with others in your organization.

What about the skills you use to lead within your own life and community? How are you investing these skills into your career? Make sure you are using these skills in your performance reviews. Don’t have one? Ask for one.

4) Your current self vs. Your future self.

There is a fine line between living in where we are now and looking at what we want our lives to be. In the last five years of my life, I’ve lived in a community that fostered a “be present” perspective.

Being present is essential to being self-aware and understanding who you are now, but how do you utilize this to affect who you want to be in five or ten years? In the words of Sallie Krawcheck: “OWN IT.”

Own where you are, but be comfortable in it. Remember, your current self is the catalyst for your future self. If you are a junior software developer now, then be the junior software developer you want to be.

Just keep in mind that being the best now will be the catalyst to being a senior software developer and beyond. Learn what you don’t know and continue to grow.

5) Hold everyone accountable, including yourself.

The first myth of employee identification is that we expect the company to make that identification for us. However, the person who controls this is you.

You are the one who chooses who you are and what you want to be. How do we do this? Have the conversation! You can’t get what you want without asking.

This is just the first part. Whatever the conversation becomes, hold your company accountable for the outcome. Haven’t received it yet? Follow up. Always send an e-mail to your manager confirming the ask and response.

Make sure that what you are asking for is being perceived correctly by your manager. Paper trails and confirmation of conversations are the best ways to hold all parties accountable to the ask and outcome.

Identity is key in career growth, so go be everything you are and can be!

Originally published on Ellevate.

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