VP, Director, Manager: Do Titles Really Matter?

By Kristen Harris

In a world where it’s all about the work, do titles really matter? Do they tell you something about the person you’re meeting? Or are fancy titles just a “prize” companies hand out in lieu of real responsibility or more pay?

Let’s face it, there are no universally accepted definitions of what the titles Vice President, Director, Manager, Assistant or Associate mean. Every company has their own hierarchy, pay matrix, and internal understanding of these designations. At a lot of newer companies, especially in the creative or tech sectors, you can pretty much call yourself whatever you want. I’ve seen all kinds of crazy titles and often wonder if there’s a prize for the most outlandish or most cryptic.

From my perspective as a creative staffing professional, job titles are far less important than the actual tasks and responsibilities of the position.  Rather than obsess over what it says on your business card, I encourage people to focus instead on:

  • The kind of work you get to do
  • The level of responsibility you have
  • The opportunities you have to grow
  • How meaningful the work your company does is, and
  • The values it stands for.

A friend of mine who is considering a new role recently said, “It’s a lesser title, but the work is really interesting.” Right on! Isn’t that what really matters?

If everyone is a VP of something, then no one is really that important. Or they’re all equally important. A title doesn’t make someone matter, the work they do and value they bring does. I’d much rather be the Associate of Something Really Exciting than Vice President of the Everyday and Mundane. I don’t care what you call me, sell me on what I’ll be doing.

Sure titles can sometimes help outsiders understand someone’s position and role, which makes a case for keeping them fairly straightforward and descriptive.  But don’t let the lack of a proper upwardly mobile title keep you from what may be a wonderful opportunity.  It’s better to consider the actual job you’ll be doing, the decision-making authority you’ll have and the difference you can make at a company.  After you know all of that, then ask what the title is, or create your own.

Titles are just a bunch of words anyway, the work is what matters.