Senior Client Partner, Global Human Resources Center of Excellence
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6 Ways to Get a New Job Title
The manager knew that no significant bonus or raise was coming this year—but what about a job-title upgrade? She considered asking her boss or HR to give it consideration, but worried that she would seem vain or—worse—appear to be seeking external opportunities.
As the economy continues to show signs of tension, companies under strain are increasingly open to job-title alterations. A new survey shows that 54% of companies are paying close attention to job titles to attract job candidates. But asking for a change comes with risks. “They might wonder, ‘Why is this person so title conscious?’” says Ron Porter, a Korn Ferrry senior client partner and member of the firm's Global Human Resources Center of Expertise. We asked our experts for six strategies.
Read the room.
Large companies codify their highly structured titles and roles: a jump from corporate analyst to senior corporate analyst comes with shifts in both responsibility and pay scale. For this reason, these companies are less likely to grant a title change. Similarly, some foreign cultures can be rigid about job titles; their corporate structure may have many more rungs on the job ladder, each of them imbued with increased prestige and meaning. But in small, more loosely structured organizations—especially in start-ups, where roles tend to be amorphous and vast—executives may be all too willing to improve a job title.
Study peers’ titles…
Look at the titles and workloads of people in your field, both internally and externally, and come up with a title that generally aligns with theirs. “If their titles are higher than yours, you probably have a strong case,” says Porter. He also suggests studying the department, regional office, and company. Some companies tend to be fairly non-hierarchical, which makes these discussions difficult, because “they go against the grain of the culture,” says Michelle Seidel, senior client partner in global technology at Korn Ferry.
…and put a hot field in your new title.
If you’re asking for a change, it’s optimal to ask for a title that includes a sought-after skill, such as “director of data analytics” or “agile project manager.” Managers agreeing to title changes likely won’t care about this wording. And if appropriate, a bump in seniority and responsibility, such as “vp” or “director,” is also helpful.
Consider your DEI angle.
Companies with strong DEI cultures are more likely to be conscious of how a title relates to perceived power. At one top tech firm, a female executive requested a title improvement (with no compensation boost) to boost her authority. “Female leaders benefit from authority to drive the leadership, while men often don’t need that,” says Flo Falayi, associate client partner in leadership development and DEI at Korn Ferry.
Ask for money too.
Korn Ferry research shows that employees most appreciate a title improvement with a pay raise, and employers know that it’s best to keep the two paired. “Employees see through it when employers try to make up for a lack of raise with a better title,” says organizational strategy expert Maria Amato, senior client partner at Korn Ferry.
Understand your employer’s perspective.
Employees mistakenly believe that title changes are easy-peasy. “Job-title changes seem free, but they’re not—they’re part of a firm’s career architecture,” says Dennis Deans, vice president for human resources at Korn Ferry. The discussion, he adds, can still be worthwhile, regardless of the outcome.
Learn more about Korn Ferry’s Organizational Strategy capabilities.