Job Titles Are For Companies, Not For You

January 30, 2022

A tweet reads: "so what's the actual definition of junior developer and when one can understand they aren't junior anymore?" (See the tweet)

What is a job title for?

How do job titles impact mental health?

And why doesn’t the actual definition of job titles like, “junior developer,” matter?

There’s no “actual definition of Junior Developer,” and as I will explain…there shouldn’t be.

A company uses job titles to organize their staff by pay and responsibilities.

That’s it.

Beyond staff management, companies don’t care about your title.

They care about the value you bring.

If you want to be promoted, you must often add value, first.

Two tweets read: "The formula to get promoted has two key steps. Step 1: add value. Step 2: make noise. The very best way to add value is to grow the whole pie. And to get promoted, you need to point to achievements that impacted the bottom line, added efficiency, or some other metric that your company cares about." (See the tweet)

Because what people care about is the value you bring to them.

A title is a weak signal of value because different companies have different ways of organizing staff.

That’s why a junior dev in one company may be an intermediate dev in another.

The only people who care about their job titles are those who attach their self-worth to their titles.

But then what is their worth outside their job?

What if they lose their job?

Companies control their perception of self-worth through titles.

A tweet by Daniel Vassallo reads: "Peg your self-worth to your job title, and you become its slave" (See the tweet)

Unless, of course, you run your own company.

Then, you can call yourself whatever you want!

But that just means: a title isn’t valuable.

Attachment to titles also worsens imposter syndrome because you may be given a title you don’t think you deserve.

So, what’s the solution?

Change how you think about titles:

  1. Job titles are for companies, not for you
  2. Focus on what you do, not what you are

When I’m asked what I do, I like to say, “I make software.” That’s it.

I still call myself a software developer on occasion for convenience, but the idea is to start changing how you see yourself and your value.

Once you free your self-worth from your job title, these concerns go away:

  • “What’s the actual definition of a junior developer?” Who cares?
  • “When can one understand they aren’t a junior anymore?” It doesn’t matter. What matters is: what value do you bring to your team, clients, and users? Your title doesn’t dictate your pay; your value does.
  • Your company no longer controls how you feel about yourself. You’re in control.
  • Imposter syndrome diminishes because you’re no longer trying to live up to arbitrary titles.

So, don’t tie your self-worth to your job title.

You don’t control it.

It controls you.

© 2023, Alvin Tsui