When Job Titles Fail: How & When to Ask for a Title Update

Office Ninjas are known to wear multiple hats in and around the office. We may have titles like Executive Assistant or Office Manager, but often enough those titles can’t possibly encapsulate everything we do in a day. Can they? Should they? Job titles are tricky little devils, used to placate us and make us feel important at a job. But do they even matter anymore? And if they do, how can we update our job titles to reflect this?

As all admins know, we are so much more than our job titles. But, it would be nice to have a job title that reflects both our experience and roles all-in-one. Here’s how admins can ask for a better job title (and why they should).

Not All Job Titles Are Created Equal

In a perfect working world, job titles accurately describe your roles, responsibility and seniority at the company. Unfortunately for everyone, we do not work in a perfect world. Some without the years of experience in sales label themselves as Senior Managers; others add new duties and responsibilities without changing their job title. In reality, job titles cause more trouble than ease.

Recently, job titles have received a makeover of sorts. You know the types—”Growth Hacker” or “Happiness Champion.” Sometimes, the new job titles are disguised even more; no one’s a salesman anymore, but they’re an “Account Manager.”

But, these types of unusual job titles can hurt your career (and your company), instead of helping. Since companies use databases to sift through keywords in resumes, having an unusual title can hurt when you’re applying for a job. “What is cool today could be passé tomorrow. If you have any say in your title, think what it will look like on your resumé ten years from now,” said brand naming consultant Lisa Merriam.

To be clear—job titles matter. But they’re less important than your job’s requirements (re: duties and responsibilities).

Know When to Ask for a Title Change

For anyone who’s ever looked at or written a job description, there’s a little phrase that many companies attach to the end of a job description to protect themselves. Otherwise, they’d be changing job titles every other week. Maybe you’ve heard it—“Other duties as required”? It’s usually the last thing on the list and as long as the majority of your work is included in your current job description, HR or management is not out of line to deny your job title request. In their minds, you’re only performing a few extra duties covered by the “Other duties as required” clause. Right?

If your job has added new duties and responsibilities that go beyond “Other duties as required,” then it’s time to approach your manager for a job title change. An Office Ninjas Ambassador and Executive Assistant Suzy S. (who has a superheroic sounding name, no?)—asked us (and her fellow Ambassadors) what her new job title should be, considering she “covers the management of the facility, all the social media, website content, some website development and producing graphic/print material and active fundraising.” There were tons of suggestions—from “Marketing Specialist” to “Executive Assistant & Marketing Manager” to “Executive Assistant & Communications Specialist“—before Suzy and her boss settled on her holy Grail job title: “Executive Assistant & Social Media Coordinator.” (Good for you, Suzy!)

Luckily, Suzy had the support of her boss to update her job description to a more appropriate title; others might have to make their case for a job title change.

How to Negotiate for a Better Job Title

Reality check: the only person in charge of your career is you. Yes, your company could one day downsize or close altogether (leaving you out of work), but it’s up to you to make the most of the circumstances within your control. Your job title is one of them and having a better job title can set you up for the future.

The first thing any Office Ninja should do to negotiate their job title is understand what you do. And who knows better about what you do than you? Write down everything you do at and for your job. Then, compare those responsibilities to the job descriptions of other positions similar to yours; this way, you can determine what the most appropriate job title is for your duties and experience.

Next is the fun part (hopefully): research your new job title salary expectations with a site like GlassDoor. This way, you have some figures (or a salary range) ready before presenting this information to your boss or manager. In your presentation/meeting, be sure to emphasize your accomplishments in the new role and how you’ve thrived in it. You want to make sure you’ve outlined your original job duties and descriptions and compare that with what you do now. Then, use the comparative research from GlassDoor or LinkedIn to back up your claims

Here’s a handy checklist of the process:

  • Essentially write the job description of your current duties and experience.
  • Compare your new job description to other positions similar to yours to determine the best job title.
  • Use a site like GlassDoor to research a reasonable salary range for your new job title in your area.
  • Present your ideas to your manager/Executive Director by comparing and contrasting your original description with the one you’d like using comparative research
  • Throw a party. Either pity or celebratory.

There’s no guarantee you’ll get everything you ask for and more. You may get not get a raise or the job title, but you will know what you are worth in your job. It may wake you up to the fact that it’s time to move on or that you love where you are right now.

Have you found any success in changing your job title? Share your story below!

Emily E. Steck

Emily E. Steck is a writer who thinks too much, according to her mother. She attributes her ninja skills to her university years, where she worked as a student worker for the math department. It was her understanding there would be no math. When she's not writing, she can be seen reading a book, jamming out on her piano and playing tennis.

Comments

  1. Agostina
     

    Dear office Ninjas,
    I was supposed to be an Executive Assitant of a Director; however, I am working as a receptionist, sommelier, press and communications agent, personal assistant, travel agency, logistics, and secretary of two Directors and 6 managers. What title should I ask for?

  2. aishah
     

    Dear
    i’m in administrator job title but my work include general relationship, represent my team and company, logistics shipments and materials records and track orders.
    in addition to manage digital marketing, design social media posts, communication and answer inquiries
    so, it not related to my job title
    what can i ask for ?

  3. Rae
     

    I’m an administrative assistant–who supports a Treasury department, a Finance department, and the CFO of an international NGO–total [direct] support of two executives, five directors, and 16 other staff, not even counting the work that gets thrown on me indirectly from some of the CFO’s other direct reports. Show of hands how many think that deserves a title change? I’m thinking Global Finance Executive Assistant or Executive Assistant & Super Hero. Thoughts?

    1. OfficeNinjas
      author

      Yowza, that is TON of responsibility, Rae! This is exactly why we prefer the term “Office Ninja” ;) But you definitely have our vote to propose a title that reflects your administrative domination more clearly.

      PS – Make sure you have all these leaders nominate you as an All-Star! https://officeninjas.typeform.com/to/czcB3D

  4. Diana
     

    Working in higher Ed, our organization compares all job titles to a national data base. At present, a coordinator is basically the same clerical position as admin assistant. They do not recognize that title change as a promotion. I’ve been told I’m at the top of the pay scale at 31k, but cannot possibly support myself in our area on that. Many of my peers moonlight to supplement their income, which is difficult when we are all nearing 60 and can’t retire until we are almost 68.

    1. Nancy
       

      as another admin coordinator in Higher Ed – Amen!

COMMENT