I work in a higher educational setting. I am not a faculty member so I am lumped in to the only other category: administrative staff. But I'm not an administrator, I am a trained business communicator working at the level of senior manager. While there are things I like about my role and my employer, and I really, really like our leadership, I am a union member by requirement, and the union has tied the hands of our organization so that it is impossible for me ever to be given a job title different from what I currently hold: "co-ordinator."
The problem is that in the communications arena, a co-ordinator is an entry-level job. How can I possibly find another job commensurate with my ability and experience when my résumé says I am a co-ordinator? If I were the one looking through a pile of résumés for a senior manager position and saw the title of my job – I'd dump me! I will have to break up with my employer sooner or later – but how do I manage the blemish of my title?
Don't break up so fast! You seem to really enjoy your work and that counts for a lot these days. Still, you are wise to be thinking ahead. Your worries, however, regarding your title, are for naught. If you do a good job presenting yourself in your résumé and all other related career marketing communications, your title will not be the show-stopping issue you think it to be.
I asked recruiter, Roxanne Cramer, with Cramer Co. International, to weigh in on this issue. She has years of experience recruiting in the communications and HR fields.
"Titles are not as important as they once were. A title can mean different things to different organizations. These days titles are all over the map especially with the global influence in the job market," Ms. Cramer says. "What's key is how you describe your role, achievements and capabilities in your résumé."
I couldn't agree more. The presentation of your résumé is vital in any job search – and even more so if your current title doesn't automatically reflect your level of experience.
So take a hard look at your résumé to ensure it conveys the right message at first glance. This sounds like the perfect challenge for a senior-level communications pro like yourself. Here are a few ideas to guide you as your prepare your résumé:
Your very first paragraph (profile summary or objective statement at the top) must position yourself at a senior level. Include appropriate phrases that convey your level of experience. For example, "A senior-level communications professional with more than xx years of experience managing complex projects, guiding teams and directing strategy for multiple streams of businesses …" (Add more as appropriate.)
When citing your current title in the body of the résumé, make sure you qualify it immediately with a phrase that puts it into the right context. For instance, rather than listing your title simply as "Co-ordinator" include a phrase that describes what this means in your organization. Such as: Co-ordinator – Senior Strategic Lead in the Communications Team.
Provide a meaningful description of your role that is commensurate with a senior-level position, particularly to demonstrate your capabilities for the kind of position you would be seeking. For instance, a more senior-level role would be more involved in strategy, managing and leading others, collaborating with and/or advising senior-level executives. If you manage a team, be sure to acknowledge this as well as your skills and accomplishments in developing others.
Don't add confusion
Disclose your reporting line only if you report to a very senior level role, such as a CEO, president or senior-level vice-president. Leave this out if the individual you report to also has an ambiguous title that doesn't reflect their seniority – as it may only add to the confusion.
Tell your story
Think hard about the achievements you include as they can speak volumes and tell your story more powerfully than any title can. Make sure they reflect the senior-level nature of your role and more importantly convey your capabilities that speak to the needs of the position you are applying for.
And beyond the résumé, don't forget that many jobs are found through referral networks. Make sure you get out there and develop your network and establish a profile that accurately captures what you are about. Part of this should include a LinkedIn profile that appropriately positions you as a senior-level professional.
In addition to your own direct job search, consider reaching out to recruiters who specialize in your field. If a recruiter knows you they can mitigate any issues or confusion regarding your title in the introductions they may make on your behalf.
Ultimately, the best strategy is to continue to do great work, build up your network, establish a profile, and when you are ready to step out, you will have a terrific story to tell.
Eileen Chadnick is a career coach and principal of Big Cheese Coaching in Toronto.
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