Dilemma of the Month: Job Title Woes

Back Q&A May 4, 2017 By Suzanne Lucas
I am an inside sales representative for a medical device company. I work hard to build relationships over the phone to sell and consult on products with doctors. When I was hired, the president of the company specifically told me this was not a telemarketing job. Recently, I caught the president introducing our team as “the telemarketers.” This embarrassed and insulted me. HR agrees and will ask him to stop. I was going to ask this person for a letter of recommendation for medical school, but I don’t want to inflate his ego. Is this a sign I should go back to school asap or find another job?

First, take a step backward and re-read your first two sentences. You have a difficult and rewarding job. When you write a resume, brag to old high school friends or apply to medical school, will it matter what your company president said to internal people? Of course not. If you want to get into medical school, the last thing you need to worry about is inflating the ego of the company president. What you want is a letter of recommendation from someone in a position of power and influence. If that means boosting the president’s ego, go for it.

This doesn’t mean that it’s not super annoying. I can tell you all day long there’s nothing wrong with being a telemarketer — because there isn’t. It’s a respectable job that many people work very hard to do. But that won’t change the fact that many people see telemarketing as a last-ditch job and no one likes to receive telemarketing phone calls. It also plants an inaccurate picture in people’s heads: Yes, you are selling things over the phone, but you’re not cold-calling strangers to get them to change their cable plans.

Titles are a funny thing. A good recruiter will look at the description of your accomplishments on your resume, and not just your job titles, but it’s absolutely true that a bad one will fixate on your titles. Some companies inflate titles — for instance, when my husband was only two years out of graduate school, he got a job offer at an advertising agency with a title of associate vice president. While that inflated his ego, he questioned the title and the recruiter said, “Oh, clients don’t want to deal with anyone low level, so everyone but the admins are AVPs and higher.” He didn’t end up taking that job — he took one as a “senior statistician” elsewhere. How can someone simultaneously be qualified for a senior statistician job and an AVP job? Because titles are unreliable.

The HR manager having your back here is a good sign. If she can get him to stop, your problems are solved. And if the president is respectful of you and your role in the company in all other regards, then his misidentifying your title might be inadvertent. But if not, then what? Should you look to move on?

“Keep in mind that sometimes we have to suck up to people who are higher up in the food chain, especially if we want to climb the ladder ourselves.”

It really depends on a lot of things. You say you’re planning on medical school, which means you probably don’t have a lot of time between now and then. Most companies aren’t looking to hire people for short-term stints. That means quitting right now probably isn’t the best path. A longer term job will look better and will result in a better letter of recommendation when you apply for medical school. However, if the president continues to call you a telemarketer and it continues to drive you crazy, it may result in a lousy letter or no letter at all.

Keep in mind that sometimes we have to suck up to people who are higher up in the food chain, especially if we want to climb the ladder ourselves. Let the HR person who agrees with you do the pushing back. She doesn’t need a letter of recommendation — you do.

As a general rule, let the title issue go. It doesn’t make a difference in your day-to-day job. It’s OK to be annoyed by his remarks, but it’s not OK to let it ruin your life. When you look back at this job, it won’t really matter what the CEO said when he was speaking to others in the hallway.

Never let a bad job title (and in your case, it’s not even an official one) stop you from achieving your goals. Make sure when you write your resume that you indicate the things that you accomplished — not just your titles. That is what will matter the most. 

Comments

Chris Hogg (not verified)May 8, 2017 - 10:52am

Where exactly in the federal code is it written that our job title must match our job title. My official job title is "case manager" but I was hired to be an employment counselor, my function is employment counselor, my boss addresses me and introduces me as an employment counselor, and my business card shows me as an employment counselor. I refer to myself everywhere as an employment counselor. Am I missing something?

Chris Hogg (not verified)May 8, 2017 - 10:53am

Where exactly in the federal code is it written that our job title must match our job title. My official job title is "case manager" but I was hired to be an employment counselor, my function is employment counselor, my boss addresses me and introduces me as an employment counselor, and my business card shows me as an employment counselor. I refer to myself everywhere as an employment counselor. Am I missing something?

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