We’ve all heard a question in an interview that goes something like this: “It says here that you were ‘Operations Manager,’ what exactly did that entail?” Am I right? Doesn’t “Operations Manager” come off like the responsibilities could entail any number of things? I think so. So, does it matter exactly what your job title actually was, if, on a resume or in an interview, you’ll probably end up having to explain what your job was anyway? That’s a question that can have a few answers, but it’s nothing to warrant any stress on your end as you navigate the job market.
Job titles are a bit like jobs themselves, the relationship between the on-paper description and the actual role can vary manager-to-manager, day-to-day, or even hour-to-hour. And the differing structures of specific businesses can make one title mean one thing at this company, and something completely different somewhere else. Maybe for you, being an “Operations Manager,” meant you were the head of your department; for somebody else, maybe it meant they reported to the head of their department; for me, it meant I handled scheduling for the fitness company where I worked. All that really matters, in most cases, is how specifically you lay out your responsibilities and accomplishments when asked to do so.
With that said, job titles may mean quite a bit to the person who gave it to you, so don’t be too quick to wave that aside once you start looking for a new position. You may think you have a positive reference at your old job, but don’t be surprised—if, say, you’ve changed your title on your resume from “Operations Manager” to “Director of Operations” for what you think is greater clarity—to find out your old boss is a bit miffed to hear you’ve been calling yourself a “Director” all of a sudden!
Not that this is any reason to fret! Not at all! All it requires is that you complete that ever-so-important step—communicate. If you want to check in with your current or former boss about your job title—about whether it conveys the full scope of your responsibilities, for example—go ahead and ask! The worst outcome is that they give you an answer you don’t like, and you have to go on explaining your job description for a bit longer than you’d care to.
It’s okay! At the end of the day, the thing people care about the most is whether you work hard at your job, are effective, and if you’re grateful for the opportunities you receive and do everything you can to live up to them. Things like job titles and job descriptions are, ultimately, never quite as important as job performance.