What is your title?
With spring upon us, I am working with many soon-to-be grads. They are very happy and proud (as they should be) to be moving on to the next phase of life…finding a fulfilling career. I love helping students now see themselves as adults and professionals. I do find it interesting though, how many get stuck when applying for positions because of the job’s title. They may be completely enthralled with the job description, the company’s culture and mission, and even the salary range, but …. the position’s title leaves them feeling “less than”.
Let me be perfectly clear here….your first job won’t be your last and your first job title on a business card won’t either. I get it. You’ve studied for years and want some sort of validation or recognition for all you bring to the table. It’s part of your new identity as an adult and professional. This is where I must go into “Mom” mode. Your job is not you. It does not define who you are as a person any more than your paycheck defines you or your success.
The joke at my office is that I am the “Work Wife”. The person who makes sure the bosses are not in need, that they feel heard, their sounding board, that there is always their favorite beverages and snacks in the kitchen (nope, the good fairy doesn’t stock the fridge…it’s me). I do whatever needs doing so that things don’t fall through the cracks. My business card reads “Office Manager”, but that is an all-encompassing title.
Do not shy away from titles like Administrative Assistant. This too is an all-encompassing title and it is a gender-neutral position. It is a foot in the door to business that affords you direct access to executives to become their right hand, go-to person. In this role, you will hone your communication skills with higher tier people inside and outside of your organization; building a professional network for the future. You will learn time management, project management, work flow, document management. You will learn to recognize the stages of partnership development, develop your business acumen, learn how to think like a CEO, build trust and garner respect, and become comfortable anticipating needs. You will be in a position to train your executives to fully utilize your skills and leverage your strengths as you forge a partnership with them. A position like this can basically give you a Cliff Notes (does anyone still use Cliff Notes?) version of an MBA experience.
So the takeaway here for new grads, expand your job search to include titles that are broad in scope. The more you learn from your first job, the better you will be positioned for your next. Career development is a journey and you have to start somewhere, which won’t likely be at the “top”. Pursue the opportunity and not just the job title.