When a Job Title Means Nothing

Employers inflate job titles when they haven't got the cash to inflate salaries.

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Outside Voices - ''Working Girl'' aka Karen Burns
Money's tight. Everyone knows that. Employers know it, too, and they're looking for ways to cut corners.

One corner-cutter is that oldie-but-goodie: 

"Give 'em a title instead of a raise."

Yup, title inflation is rampant. With so many vice presidents, group vice presidents, executive vice presidents, vice chairmen, directors, chief officers, and more around, it makes you wonder who is doing the actual work.

Of course, a nice title can be ... nice. It may boost you to a higher salary bracket, which could help at raise time. It may give you better leverage with customers. It may even make you work harder.

But some titles are confusing. "Chief people officer" comes off as cool, modern, and zippy. So when you find out it means "human resources person," you feel sort of let down.

Other titles are misleading: "director of first impressions" sounds fabulous. So how are you going to feel when you learn it's just another way to say "receptionist"?

A few titles are nonsensical. As in "vice president of cool." Or "chief fulfiller of needs." They sound great. But what are they?

Getting a supersounding title makes you feel good. But chances are you'll soon realize that your job and your pay and your life are unchanged. Worse, on a résumé, an inflated title may confuse potential employers and make Web searches problematic.

The thing to remember: A fancy title costs an employer nothing.

So care about your title. But don't care too much.

Karen Burns, Working Girl, is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, to be released by Running Press in April 2009. She blogs at www.karenburnsworkinggirl.com.