Ask yourself, what is more important to your long-term success: the new skills and responsibilities you will acquire over time, or the various titles you will hold throughout your career? While most professionals typically aim for a good balance between the two, many accounting professionals weigh a job’s title more heavily than the description when deciding whether or not the role might be a good fit for them.
For accounting professionals approaching their next career move, the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ couldn’t be more applicable. This is something that Michael Cooke, Executive Vice President of The Execu|Search Group who oversees the Accounting/Finance division, is experiencing time and time again; candidates are turning down great opportunities because the title of the prospective role is either too intimidating for junior-level professionals or not ‘senior enough’ for seasoned accounting professionals. “Not only is this a short-sighted approach to making career decisions, but it’s also an impractical method to finding a great firm to work for,” says Michael. “If you’re unwilling to look past specific titles, you could be limiting yourself to the different types of firms you could potentially work for.”
Instead of placing the most weight on the job title throughout your job search, accounting professionals should keep the following tips in mind:
Before you decide to turn down your next opportunity solely due to the job title, you should know that not all firms acknowledge job titles the same way. “Although firms may use the same titles to distinguish certain roles, the internal structures and responsibilities can differ drastically from firm to firm,” explains Michael.
In other words, a Tax Director at one firm may be the head of a tax group, but a Tax Director at another firm may perform different duties and still report to a VP of Tax. As a result, it’s important to evaluate every role and company objectively. What may seem like a leadership title at one firm, could actually be considered a lower-level role at another organization.
It can be helpful to know if you’re interested in a very specific type of role, however, it’s important to take a step back to see the big picture. Before you completely write a job off because of an imperfect title, focus on other aspects of the firm that could potentially make up for it. While a more senior-level job title could be a step in the right direction for your career, think about other factors that could make for a beneficial experience: responsibilities and functions, company culture, opportunities for growth, or professional development initiatives. “One title change won’t necessarily make or break your career,” says Michael. “However, preventing yourself from learning new skills, programs, or functions because of a job title could be more detrimental to your ability to demonstrate why you deserve a particular title down the road to prospective employers,” advises Michael.
Whether you’re looking to change jobs in the near future or re-entering the job market, it’s important to approach each opportunity with an open mind. To do this, keep in mind that the years of experience you possess or the compensation you’ve received in the past won’t always translate into a specific job title and salary at another firm. If you’re nervous about pursuing a more advanced title, for instance, just know that prospective employers may treat certain titles and responsibilities differently, so it’s important to entertain all of your options. “The title of ‘Analyst’ is typically viewed as a more junior-level role at many firms, however, there are firms where the title of ‘Analyst’ is applicable to an accounting professional with over 7 years of experience that makes a competitive salary,” highlights Michael. “If you’re willing to be open-minded and flexible in what you’re looking for, you may find an opportunity that could be a perfect match for you.”
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