Jeremy Miller is a Software Consultant, but really struggled when trying to decide what title to put down on a loan application. I’m sure they couldn’t care less, for the most part. Maybe, just maybe they take it into account to make sure it jibes with salary info. But I could understand his struggle.
I’m an employee of my firm, and my “official” title is “Senior Architect”, but a) I don’t believe that’s my true role, at least as I’ve seen it defined, and b) I never use that title when asked. I prefer the term “Software Architect”, because my official title doesn’t even state that I’m in software.
I also understand why some people may think that Jeremy put way too much energy into this, but in this world it’s still important to be able to summarize what you spend a huge percentage of your life, energy and passion on in a single “elevator” speech word. I hate these labels because they can never fully tell your story, but it’s a necessary evil, and society expects you to identify yourself with one. Most of us would agree that a person’s job is not his or her identity, but I’d rather fight other battles than try to convince the bank manager that my job title isn’t who I “am”.
But does your job title actually mean much outside of the company you’re in? Very little. It may serve as a filtering guide when scanning resumes, but it’s not a fair skills assessment tool. What serves as a “Software Architect” in one company may define a “Lead Programmer” in another. And maybe a “System Analyst” in another. So, when applying for a job, what would you specify on your resume? On a job application? Those should match, of course. Otherwise your inconsistency may be questioned. But how do you get past the HR department’s screening?
Usually, it’s the resume that HR is screening. From what I’ve experienced, job applications only get filled out after you’re invited to be interviewed. So go ahead and put your official title (if any) down. As far as the resume is concerned, who says it has to follow any standards? These days, I’d throw away any supposed “standards”. Yes, you should probably specify your assigned job title, but who’s to say you can’t also specify a title that matches the position at the company where you’re applying? I would put it something like this when applying for an architect role:
October 2004 to December 2006 – Beverages R Us (Role: Software Architecture)
Led a team of four developers on several high profile back-office system redesign and development efforts. In the internal position of “Lead Developer”, was responsible for the design and architecture of a flexible billing system…
These days, where there are no solid job title standards, it pays to use a little creativity. If you have to enter a job title in an application, use your official title if you have one. But when you’re discussing what you “do”, use the title that you’re most comfortable labeling yourself with. And when trying to clarify your qualifications when looking for a new job, fit the target company’s job title with your skill set.