Have you heard of a career title, as opposed to a job title?
If you look closely at the LinkedIn profiles of leaders in your industry, you’ll start to see it. The “Headline” and “Summary” sections have shifted from regurgitating someone’s most-recent job title, to giving more all-encompassing description that could pertain to a wider swath of industries.
- Not “Human Resources Compliance Director” but “HR Leader, Cultural Ambassador and Humanitarian.”
- Not “Senior Staff Writer” but “Innovative Editor, Writer and Creativity Expert.”
According to Dr. Natalia Peart Ph.D., if you want to compete in today’s job market, a creating a career title is an important step.
Dr. Peart is a Corporate Gender Theorist, Fortune 500 Leadership Consultant, and CEO of the Women’s Center for Advancement. “My first career was as a practicing clinical psychologist, but when I changed my awareness of myself from, ‘I am a psychologist’ to ‘I am a problem solver’ that opened up ways for me to be a problem solver in different industries and sectors with people, teams, executives, companies, organizations, not just ways to be a psychologist.”
I asked her to expand on the concept of a career title.
PS: What exactly does that mean, creating your own career title?
NP: Titles are just a shorthand way to convey what you do, and your level of responsibility.
While that is useful, and it is not going away any time soon, you should think about career titles as the beginning, not the end, of how you now need to present yourself. Your resume should also tell the story of the value you bring, not just a listing of the jobs you’ve held.
In other words, you must now go from being title-focused to also being value-focused if you want to be competitive in the job market.
The Importance of a Career Title
PS: Why should you do it?
NP: There are two big reasons why this shift from title to value-focused is important. The first is a lesson that we all hopefully learned the hard way from our recent past. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen entire industries and titles disappear.
After the financial crisis when millions of jobs were lost and people were left struggling to figure out their “what next,” the big lesson was that even when titles and jobs disappear, your value in the marketplace cannot disappear along with it.
The second reason for this shift is based on looking ahead and anticipating the future. We no longer expect to have one job for life, and there are now many more ways to work. We can be an employee, or self-employed as a contract worker, freelance worker, or in our own business for example. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020, 43% of US workers are projected to be self-employed in some way. Given that we are now increasingly using our skills in many different ways, the more traditional job titles are often not enough to convey the full story of what we do.
PS: Are career titles becoming more fluid?
NP: Career titles have now become more fluid than they have been in the past. Decades ago, when we had a smaller, more defined number of career paths, and our goals were to work, for example, as a teacher, in the medical profession, or for large corporations with a very prescribed hierarchy, job titles had a clear meaning.
Now, with many more ways to work—whether for yourself of someone else, and flatter organizational structures, the same titles do not translate as clearly across industries or companies.
PS: Should you create your own no matter what job you hold?
NP: While you will always have a title that your employer gives to you, you should not let that be the only way you are defined in the job market.
In a sea of potentially hundreds of other applicants that could compete for any one job, you now must be able to highlight not only your previous jobs and titles, but you should also highlight the larger story of the value that you bring regardless of titles.
This is a critical shift in how we must market ourselves, because titles can come and go, but the larger story of your value in the marketplace is what must be clear and remain constant.
How to Write Your Own Career Title
PS: What are some of the questions to ask yourself before doing so.
1. Look at yourself through a new lens. To move beyond seeing yourself as a job title, look at the work experiences that you have had so far and ask yourself if there is a pattern, of why you choose what you choose.
- Are you goal-oriented and love having a goal you can strive for?
- Are you an innovator that likes to take things and find a way to make it better?
- Do you enjoy working with others to help them improve and grow?
- Or maybe your “why” is that you are mission-driven and want to make to make the world a better place for all.
These are just a few examples of ways to see yourself and all that you do through a lens that is bigger than just a job title.
2. Know how you stand out. Once you can see yourself through a new lens, you need to take it to the next level by figuring out how you stand out in the marketplace.
To find your Unique Advantage, ask yourself two questions. First ask yourself what are your unique gifts and talents, such that when you are in the zone, it sets you apart from everyone else.
Once you know that, turn the mirror the other way and ask yourself—what is not only meaningful to you, but what value do you add, what problems do you solve? What results did you get in your past experiences? What gaps did you help fill.
3. Move from a resume to a compelling story of yourself. The last step is telling your story to others. Since your resume may not follow a linear progression of one title, and greater responsibility over time in that one role, you need to think about your resume as your story that is held together like any other story—with a strong story through line that helps you and everyone else see the common thread in what may look like very different kinds of experiences.
You should make sure you tie your experiences together using your bigger lens based on the patterns you spotted, and highlight the value you provide. You can then illustrate your story with your more traditional list of jobs and experiences.