Your job title isn’t everything — but it does matter. When you’re offered a new role, or have been in the same position for some time, how should you think about what title you deserve? How do you decide whether it’s worth negotiating? If you don’t think you can get a raise, should you even ask for a change in your title? And what about the other side of the coin: How should you respond if your boss offers you a promotion in title — with no raise?
What the Experts Say When accepting a new position or angling for a promotion, most people tend to focus on salary negotiation. But your job title should also be part of the equation, says Margaret Neale, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business and coauthor of Getting (More of) What You Want. It’s “a signal both to the outside world and to your colleagues of what level you are within your organization,” she says, and should be seen as an element of “your compensation package” that affords status and connections and can “help you do your job better.” Your title can also have a big impact on your day-to-day happiness and engagement, says Dan Cable, professor at London Business School. “It is a form of self-expression in the workplace,” he says. “It is a symbolic representation of what you do and the value that you bring.” So, whether you’re eyeing a new role or a new title in your current one, here are some ideas for how to go about it.
Reflect Negotiating or renegotiating your title requires a bit of 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 awhile, “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,” Neale says. In that case, a discussion with your boss is probably justified. Or perhaps you’re mulling over 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. “At a time when companies are less able to ask and people are less willing to share their compensation history, your title is a way for future employers to triangulate your expectations,” she explains. 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, Cable says. “Think of it as an opportunity to customize the role more to your skills and interests.” MORE