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Thursday, January 8, 2009

using a different title than your real one on your resume

A reader writes:

I currently work as an IT professional for a company that is contracted by a larger company to provide IT support for their organization. I was originally hired two years ago to provide desktop support services. Due to the elimination of the job of the only other IT employee at our site, I have taken on the responsibilities and duties of a much higher level IT professional.

During this time - approximately 18 months - I have been subjected to "trial by fire." I have been asked to deal with IT issues that I previously had zero experience with. I have consistently come through with flying colors by researching and learning on the fly the skills necessary to handle these situations. During the last 18 months I have also earned two fairly high level IT certifications (MCSE and CCNP).

During my year-end review, I asked for a substantial raise and a title change. My boss has offered a five percent raise (which I have yet to accept or reject) but told me that a title change was out of the question. I am stuck with the label of "Desktop Support Technician" despite the fact that I handle the duties of a Senior Network Administrator and Senior Systems Administrator singlehandedly.

I feel that I am qualified for a much higher paying position - likely double what I make now. I want to start applying with other companies, but I do not want to list my current position as "Desktop Support" as this does not reflect the reality of my current role.

Can I list my current role as "Systems & Network Administrator" but explain during my interview that I actually only hold the "Desktop Support Technician" title despite the duties I perform?

Unfortunately, no. When the prospective employer calls to check your references, they'll likely uncover the actual title and it'll raise a red flag for them about your honesty. They'll also wonder what else you may have inflated.

However, there's an easy solution to this that will accomplish what you're trying to do: Don't list a title. Just list your responsibilities.

Now, some advice on topics you didn't ask about:

There are two ways to respond to the situation you're in: You can be resentful that you had to take on the responsibilities of a higher-level IT staffer, or you be glad that you've been in a situation that made you develop your skills -- developed them so much that in fact you now think you're qualified to double your salary! That's an career development opportunity, not a bitter pill.

(Plus, in my experience, it's pretty common for good IT people to need to learn new skills on the job. IT is a constantly evolving area, and researching and learning new things goes with the territory in many IT jobs.)

Regarding your boss' offer of a five percent raise: You said you haven't decided whether to reject or accept it yet. I'd accept. There are a lot of employers who aren't giving out raises at all this year because of the economy, and plenty more who are having to go a step further and lay off staff (which you mentioned your company has already had to do). A five percent raise is generally considered a decent raise in even good economic times. Take it. Job-search if you want, but take that raise meanwhile.

And if you haven't yet, ask your boss why he's resistant to changing your title. There may be factors you don't know about that will help you make sense of his decision. Of course, maybe there's aren't and he's totally in the wrong, but at least ask (nicely and non-defensively!). Good luck!

18 comments:

Just another HR lady... said...

I don't know if I would leave off a title on my resume, but I would certainly make sure the description in your resume reflects the actual responsibilities and the fact that you are a 1-person department. A good recruiter looks at the responsibilities not the title anyway, as we know titles usually mean very little other than internally to that particular company. (sorry to those people who are attached to titles)

In any case, I would caution against using a different title on your resume, simply because when references are checked, your title will not match the title given by your current company. The recruiter may not care, or they may start to question other things your have listed on your resume. Not good.

ShawnAvery said...

Thank you both for responding to this question.



After rereading my original email I can see that I did not come off in the best light.



I am extremely grateful that I was given this opportunity. It turned what would have been a boring entry level job into something I love doing. I really like my job and what I do on a daily basis, even if it can be overwhelming at times.



That said, I was originally hired at a salary of $35,000 and am being offered a raise to $36,500. I see listings available that meet the description of what I am doing that are paying anywhere from $60k to $80k a year! That's an awfully big difference and awfully hard to resist.



I didn't ask my company for a giant raise. I really just want them to meet me in the middle somewhere. Maybe $45k or so. Again, I really like where I work and would prefer stay here, but I don't know if I like it enough to forfeit another $30k in potential income.



The reason I was given for being denied a title change was that the company I was contracted with was interested in a Desktop Support Technician position and not in anything higher. I can plainly see that they are in fact interested in a higher level position as they literally can't operate without someone maintaining their IT infrastructure. I don't have an opportunity to negotiate directly with the company I provide services for unfortunately, so I have to rely on my boss to plead my case. I actually don't fully trust him not to raise the rate he is charging for my services dramatically and stiff me.



I hadn't considered leaving my job title off my resume completely. I suppose I would need to do so for any previous positions as well to keep a uniform look? I am currently looking for something else somewhat passively – I have a couple of IT recruiting companies in town working on my behalf – but I haven't really started to look for something else (mainly because I don't have time due to my job J)



Another course of action I have considered as a last ditch effort is to go directly to the General Manager of the company I provide services for and let him know the situation. I have a good relationship with him and I know that he likes me and thinks I am invaluable. Unfortunately due to policies set by his corporate office he cannot offer me a position directly with the company (he has already said to me that he would rather have me as an internal employee but that his hands are tied). If I did this it would completely ruin any kind of working relationship with my boss, but as I said it would really be a last ditch effort.



Any thoughts?



Again, thank you both for your responses.

Kerry said...

I agree that you can't use a different title on your resume, but I wouldn't leave it off. When I see a resume like that, I am not fooled--just annoyed by the attempt to obscure things. I'd use your real title, and then use a bullet point under your accomplishments that says something like, "Took over all aspects of the "Senior Systems Administrator and Senior Network Administrator positions when those positions were eliminated..."

It's possible your boss is doing you a favor. I once had an employee who insisted on a promotion and raise, and I denied it because I knew it would put her at much higher risk for job elimination, a fact I couldn't share with her at the time. The higher you are on the salary spreadsheet, the more attractive you look when cost-cutting time rolls around.

Look for a job if you feel you must, but don't let your ire show at your current company. It's a tougher market than you think, and those $60K jobs may be filled by someone who is unemployed and used to make $90K.

Anonymous said...

Also, very important to note...those higher paid positions generally require certain degrees and certifications, and not just "equivalent experience." If you're missing those degrees or certifications, regardless of your experience, you're not qualified in the eyes of a recruiter (speaking as an IT recruiter). Also noteworthy...you're contracted as a certain level. If your boss gives you a raise and title change, that company may not have it in their contract to pay for those things. They probably have a budget of XXX for a Desktop Support Technician and not YYY for a Senior Sys Admin.

Wally Bock said...

I think you've gotten good advice here. But I want to inject a dose of realism to your thinking.

You say " I was originally hired at a salary of $35,000 and am being offered a raise to $36,500. I see listings available that meet the description of what I am doing that are paying anywhere from $60k to $80k a year! That's an awfully big difference and awfully hard to resist."

"Resist" is not the right word. Nobody's offered you anything in that range. And I suspect the odds of you making a job change with a 70 to 120 percent increase in salary range between slim and none.

I say that for two reasons. The first is that there are a lot of qualified, certificated, techs out there with a lot more experience than you have.

The other reason is that the company whose IT infrastructure you were supporting didn't hire you to do the job. They hired the company that employed you. That's significant because you were operating with backup. If you had screwed something up, your company would have either sent in the cavalry or pulled you from the assignment.

In other words, so far you haven't been on your own and responsible for maintaining an IT infrastructure. That might be a good choice for your next job.

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with the other comments. I know it's frustrating to not get credit or pay for the job you're actually doing but I think your view may be a little skewed.

Here are my thoughts:
- As for your desire for a title change, 18 months in one job with no previous sysadmin experience doesn't make you a "senior" anything. I would push for something like specialist, either network or systems. Even technical specialist sounds better than something like desktop support. I wouldn't want the word desktop in my title unless I worked for a huge company and it was followed by the word manager.
- As for your desire for more pay, well, we all think we're underpaid. As a contracted employee, you're not getting a huge raise anytime soon.
- Be grateful for the experience you're getting right now. That makes all the difference in the world 5 years down the line. I had several classmates end up working for me as techs over the years. They were as talented and smart as me but never got off the help desk in their early career. You have to be able to touch things and make decisions to move ahead. A desktop technician with an MCSE is worthless if she never actually managed production servers.
- Lastly, think long and hard before switching jobs. As someone who recently went 5 months without a job, it is TOUGH out there. There are a lot of highly qualified candidates willing to take a pay cut you'll be competing against. There's nothing wrong with looking but make sure you're leaving for something better and not just money.

Anonymous said...

Shawn, if I were you I'd simply omit your title if that is possible. Given the fact that you've earned 2 designations and increased your knowledge, and knowing that most recruiters "scan" resumes you might be better off.

Omitting a title could lead to more curiosity on the part of the recruiter. Just a suggestion.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

ShawnAvery
As an IT professional with 8 years experience I was overly excited to share some of my wisdom. You possess a lot of motivation and drive to add value and make a positive impact to yourself and your organization -- it’s called passion. You owe it to yourself “to stay true” and do not compromise yourself worth/being. Let your manager know where you stand and reiterate the value you bring. At least they will know where you stand and it should not be a surprise when you leave. This exact scenario happened at my last job; however they were totally shocked when I gave my notice.

In every organization I’ve worked there seems to be this unwritten rule amongst management that IT workers will continue to take on more responsibility (outside their job description) without fair compensation. Then there are 101 reasons why they can’t give you a fair market value salary. Your manager has identified that you are willing to take ownership and more responsibility. Let’s be realistic what good hearted person would say “no” I don’t want more responsibility? If you did then you wouldn’t be considered a team player and would be frowned upon. The bottom line is it’s not fair.

You are doing more work than your job description states. This will only lead to more resentment towards to organization and your job functions. My opinion would be to ask for 5% that was offered, don’t sign a contract (at-will employment only), interview and move on. This organization was a building block and as long as you stated your case and fought for what you believe in, you should walk with your head held high.

One last thing, I love AAM and subscribe to her RSS feed. I agree with most if not everything she writes about. However, I don’t “totally” agree with the following statement “A five percent raise is generally considered a decent raise in even good economic times.” The cost of living and U.S retail price inflation is between 2.5-3% per year. So, in actuality ShawnAvery’s raise will be between 2-2.5%, half of what was offered and to me that’s unacceptable. That’s barely enough money after taxes to fill-up your gasoline tank.
Good luck!

Shawn Avery said...

Wow! Lots of good comments. Thank you to everyone who responded.

Kerry Said:

It's possible your boss is doing you a favor. I once had an employee who insisted on a promotion and raise, and I denied it because I knew it would put her at much higher risk for job elimination, a fact I couldn't share with her at the time. The higher you are on the salary spreadsheet, the more attractive you look when cost-cutting time rolls around.

I don't think that applies here. For starters this company's site couldn't operate without someone doing the things I do. My boss also isn't the type to care about anyone but himself. Yes, I have a real high opinion of him... =\

Anonymous said:

If you're missing those degrees or certifications, regardless of your experience, you're not qualified in the eyes of a recruiter (speaking as an IT recruiter).

I don't currently have a degree - I just started online classes to complete my bachelors degree. I realize this would be a problem for most of the jobs I see, but some listing either don't mention a degree or even state explicitly that it's not required.

Wally Bock said:

I think you've gotten good advice here. But I want to inject a dose of realism to your thinking... [snip]

Your quite possibly right. I may not be able to get a job paying those figures, but i think I could certainly get a job making $45k with less responsibility. I know they couldn't replace me for less than $50k though...

Anonymous said:

As for your desire for a title change, 18 months in one job with no previous sysadmin experience doesn't make you a "senior" anything...[snip]

I realize I don't deserve the title Senior, but I could at least ask for a title that reflects the reality of my daily job.

I also wouldn't dream of leaving this position until I had something else locked up.

Anonymous said:
Omitting a title could lead to more curiosity on the part of the recruiter. Just a suggestion.

I am definitely intrigued by this possibility. I'd rather stay here, but if it comes down to it I may end up doing this. There are a couple of negative comments regarding this though so I'd probably have to think about it a bit more.

Anonymous said:

Too much to snip!

Thank you for your input. I don't think my boss really cares if I leave though. What will likely happen is he will replace me with someone making $35k, they won't be able to handle it, they get fired and the company shells out for someone who can fill the role and pays twice what I'm making now. A losing proposition for eveyone involved except the last guy hired.

One last note; I am afraid they are trying to take advantage of me because a) They think they can, b) I'm young, c) who knows. Tiis is all that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Everyone involved knows I'm doing way more than someone making my salary should be expected to do.

In my last reply I wrote:

Another course of action I have considered as a last ditch effort is to go directly to the General Manager of the company I provide services for and let him know the situation. I have a good relationship with him and I know that he likes me and thinks I am invaluable. Unfortunately due to policies set by his corporate office he cannot offer me a position directly with the company (he has already said to me that he would rather have me as an internal employee but that his hands are tied). If I did this it would completely ruin any kind of working relationship with my boss, but as I said it would really be a last ditch effort.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Anonymous said...

Again, the IT professional with 8 years experience.

No reason to be afraid, because the bottom line says they are already taking advantage of you. Unfortunately, given this economy you are replaceable and there isn’t much room for negotiation as AAM pointed out.

In regards to your last ditch effort, I think you are better off to maintain that relationship by not going to the General Manager. The GM has already stated (as you previously noted) “his hands are tied”. Nothing can be done at that level. Now, we all hold out hope, but I think in your situation 1.)Meet with your manager 2.)Reiterate your value vs. contracting the position and re-training 3.)Ask them to re-consider the percentage. If they don’t reconsider, explain your position, accept the 5%, dust off the resume, interview, and run.

Now, all this is great in theory and I can assure you this will feel very awkward and painful. Not to mention they could possibly end your contract. Crazier things do happen. In the end hold your head up high and do what you think is right for you. Think of this way, businesses do what’s right for the bottom line, whether it’s justifiable or not. You are entitled to do the same, to do what’s right for you.

I left my last job (just over a year ago) for more money and exposure to VMware and EMC SAN hardware. It was announced recently that the parent company will be closing our branch. I could have stayed at my last job, but there were no advancement opportunities unless someone left or got fired. In fact I was laughed at during a meeting, because I talked about VMware and HP blade centers – no technology advancement either.

Do you feel there is a career path at this company or do you feel it will be the same day-to-day? Are you growing personally and professional? I think if you can answer those questions it will help you with a decision.

HR Godess said...

Anytime you go over your boss's head, you're heading down a slippery slope. Trust is compromised and that's something that at times, you can't get it back. I would go back to your boss. Tell him you understand that a "senior" title is not possible but what about "network administrator" or something comparable. Then address the money. See if you can arrange a meeting with your boss and the GM where you work to discuss your "actual" duties, not just what you were originally hired to do. I'm not sure why your company wouldn't want to be billing at a higher rate if you in fact do more than you were hired to do.

Good luck in whatever you choose.

Sandy said...

It's interesting, because I have studied for the MCSE and CCNP. Those unfortunately, don't carry as much financial weight as a bachelor's degree. $60,000 starting is what I have seen for a new grad w/ a bachelor's.

For you, you've been able to earn while you learn versus paying someone to teach you.

It sounds like you have a lot of ambition and are a high quality worker. You will go far w/o a bachelor's, but may have a somewhat longer slope to climb because of how "only" an MCSE is perceived (due to brain dumps and other forms of cheating).

Best wishes and it's good to know you appreciate what your employer is doing for you.

Brian said...

One approach that I use(d) on my resume with a past position where the title didn't mean anything was to state my official title and on the same line put "AKA - Systems Administrator". That way the potential employer has both the title they would hear if they call for the reference and what you think your title should be. In my case that was a little easier in that the official title was something like "Sr. Tech Services Specialist II"...

Sandy said...

P.S. What Kerry said strikes me as true..maybe your boss is protecting you from elimination. I saw that very same thing (too much pay=out the door) in broadcasting. As well, in IT, it stinks, but our jobs are considered a draw on the "real" positions that make money for the company. Your boss may not be able to sell your usefulness to his higher ups at $45k. Stinks, but hang in there and be honest on your resume.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an HR person. Nor am I an IT person, but my spouse is. You've gotten great advice, and I want to add my 2 cents.
First off, you are a contractor. Until you leave and get a different job (not as a contractor) someone else will be negotiating your salary, not you. You have little to NO say. In your situation, I'd be grateful and accept the 5% raise (that's amazing!) and start looking for a new position.
Secondly, I would presume different reasons for not being able to change your job title. Aren't pay salaries linked to job titles? $35K a year sounds appropriate for a desktop support position. If your title were changed to Network systems administrator, your contracting company would expect someone in that position to be paid at an appropriate salary range for that position. Where you work, it sounds like they couldn't afford that leap in price.
You received great advice about lisiting your current title, but include your duties. Mention in your cover letter (if these are used in applications for IT positions) this info, and how you've grown and learned on the job to handle many more advanced tasks.
But if you are feeling resentful about your income, get out from under your contracting company. Who knows, you could be making $45k currently and your contract company is keeping the extra $10k. Stop being a contractor. And remember, you are always replaceable. Someone else could come in and just like you, learn on the job. As a previous poster mentioned, it's par for the course for IT professionals.
Let me end on a positive note: my spouse worked Desktop support when he started/got out of school. When he started applying for different positions, he interviewed and was even one of two finalists for an IT manager position. If you have truly learned enough to be able to work in a Network system admin position (or whatever you think is appropriate) go for it! It will be imperative that you can articulate how you can perform the duties of the position you are applying for. But don't not try just because your title seems low-end.

Anonymous said...

This is to Sandy re:

You will go far w/o a bachelor's, but may have a somewhat longer slope to climb because of how "only" an MCSE is perceived...

I must reiterate...the lack of a degree is probably why you won't be considered for a senior sys admin or a similar position. I would buckle down and get your BA. Without it, landing a job will be considerably harder, since there are a lot of new graduates out there, searching for jobs. Even if the BA isn't listed as a requirement on a job posting, candidates with similar work experience and a BA are more qualified (on paper) than you are. Yes, technology changes everyday, so that on the job training is important, but it's also very necessary to have a degree to back it up.

Leeroy Glinchy said...

I never waste time worrying about my particular title. I just give everything while I'm at my job. Good bosses appreciate it. Crappy bosses are never happy anyway (though I find out they are secretly happy with me anyway).

I wouldn't hire anyone who is obsessed with titles. Just do a good job.

I have a feeling people who are so worried about titles are not team players.

A good worker with a crappy title is more productive than a crappy worker with a fantastic title.

gingerale said...

Anytime you go over your boss's head, you're heading down a slippery slope.

I agree with HR Goddess here. I would say it as "Danger, Will Robinson."