Career not going anywhere? Just change your title

So you’ve been working away at your development job for God knows how long and there’s no end in sight to your misery. There’s no chance of moving up in the company and although your bosses like you, they don’t think much of you. They’re happy with what you’re doing as long as you do it quietly, deliver in the whereabouts of your deadlines, show up to the company picnic and stay out of any real decision making. You’re taking up more and more responsibilities over the years but your pay is only being raised by a paltry 2% while the cost of living is going up by 5. You know you’re being fucked but are too lazy or incapable of doing anything. So what do you do? You change your title of course.

It’s the best remedy to an age-old problem of depreciating self-esteem. Changing a title doesn’t really hurt anyone nor does it cost a penny. It pats your ego, makes you feel a little more important and might even fool some friends into thinking your career is going somewhere. The most popular ‘promotion’ these days seems to be sticking a Sr. next to your title, as in Sr. Web Developer or Sr. Software Engineer or Sr. Brown Noser. Now there’s two ways of doing this, you could actually just go to your boss and ask him, “Hey Fred, do you mind if I stick a Sr. next to my title? See I’ve been working here for 6 years and I think it’s only fair to not have the same title as the new guy”. At this point your boss might just laugh at you and take pleasure in compounding your misery and deny your most humble request. If he does so, he’s an asshole. If he’s nice enough to agree, you just got promoted. The other way to do it is silently, maybe start sticking Sr. at the end of your email signature and see if anyone notices. Chances are even if somebody notices, they won’t care enough to investigate further, if all goes well you’ll get to keep it. If you get caught and called out, blame it on fat fingers. The plan is foolproof.

Now if Sr. doesn’t really do it for you and in your youth you had inspirations of becoming a top-level Java guy you might be qualified to be a Java Architect. But be careful here, this might not go as unnoticed as Sr. because architect is one of those terms people have started associating with someone who actually knows something. Sneaking this one in as an email signature is out of the question, you almost have to go to your boss and state the reasons why you’re qualified to be a Java Architect. Don’t worry, none of these “reasons” have to be legit obviously, just make sure you let him know a) you’re been working there 7+ years b) you know what an ESB is (just brush up on the definition before you knock on his door) and c) know what SOA stands for. If you can actually tell doc/literal/wrapped/rpc WSDL’s apart, you’re a lock to get this one. You might be lucky enough for your boss to see right through you and gather that you’re just looking for an ego-bump and not real money, he’ll be more than happy to accommodate.

If you’re too ‘goody-goody’ to resort to these cheap tricks but know deep in the crevices of your heart that you deserve better, you should probably GET OUT NOW and find yourself an employer that’s worth your time. Find a joint where you can get the ass, gas, grass and title you deserve. You’re not getting any younger which means the mathematics of salary and age are working against you. The time is now.

I think the point I’m trying to hammer home is that there are two kinds of titles: those that are earned and those that are given out of pity and sometimes even compassion. Fortunately for the comedic value of things the latter are handed out more often resulting in people who are vastly unqualified for the positions they hold. I’m sure you know the kind. So the next time Joe Schmoe walks up to you, gives you a bone-shattering handshake, a smug smile and hands you his business card that says Sr. Technology Architect, just remember that titles don’t mean shit.


14 thoughts on “Career not going anywhere? Just change your title

  1. Jason

    There is actually some merit to the basic idea. If you: (1) actually start doing those things which would be expected of the higher level to which you aspire, especially without being asked; yet (2) also do your ordinary work, especially by finding ways to automate or be more efficient; then (3) you distinguish yourself amongst your peers, decent managers notice, and when opportunities come you may be considered.

    It worked for me, actually, as I described. After the new opportunity came, I changed my title to architect, even on my business card. No-one above me noticed, but my coworkers call me that now. One of my peers was acclaimed architect by his fellows, which is another way it can happen, but he’s a nicer guy.

  2. William

    > Another one is adding “Lead” to your title like it means something.

    In my experience, “Lead” in a title means that you have a supervisory role. If you have “Lead” in your title and you aren’t actually in a supervisory role, move to a different company. You can parlay that “Lead” into an actual supervisory role (if that’s what you want).

  3. musachy

    When I’m interviewing for a new job, there is always an “architect” that I have to talk to, which 90% of the time has no idea what he/she is talking about.

  4. dave

    In government contract work (defense, in my case) the Sr. in front of my title meant that the contract house I worked for could charge Uncle Sam more for my time than if I didn’t have it. (:

  5. Lee Kelleher

    Same… at one place I worked, there was a contractor who they really wanted to go full-time. This is what he told me.

    “Whatever the job title is of your most top non-management programmer is … I want to be that, but with a ‘Senior’ on it.”

    The most senior role was then “Senior Technical Architect Project Manager”! Amazing! 😐

    I’ve heard “Consultant” is hot on the job titles these days.

  6. blabla

    Someone said(dont remember who, and where, but i copied to my Notes then):

    “In the world of software, Web designers are called programmers. Programmers are called engineers. Engineers are called architects. And architects never get called!”


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