You’re Not Your Job Title

“You’re not how much money you’ve got in the bank. You’re not your job. You’re not your family, and you’re not who you tell yourself.”
– C. Palahniuk

Tired of being a peon? Looking to get a promotion or more responsibilities? Or something bigger and better in your career?

The first step is to realize that you are not your job title.

That’s right, you’re not. Don’t let it define you and what you can do.

So your title says you’re a “developer,” yet you really want to be a bigger part of your team? Then don’t just write code all day long. Offer product suggestions, marketing ideas, and UI design feedback.

But don’t just spew out any ole’ thing that comes to your mouth. Having a lot of poorly thought out suggestions doesn’t help anymore. “We should make the navigation blue.” “Why?” “Because I want to be a bigger part of the team, and I really like blue.”

Nope. You’ve got to offer helpful suggestions. The best way to do this is to learn more about the product and understand the business.

A product director once gave me this advice: “Think of yourself as the CEO.

That’s good advice. You start to see things differently when you think of yourself as the top person in charge. Now you have to worry about your customers, your competitors, the market, your expenses, your balance sheet, your team dynamics, etc.

This helps frame your suggestions. It’s not about making the navigation blue anymore, it’s about doing what’s best for the customer, while weighed against the strengths of your company vs your competitors and the market trends.

It’s not easy to do this. There are all sorts of barriers, from insecure colleagues who’ll feel threatened by your initiative, to the fear of making big mistakes with decisions with which you have little experience.

It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. Go ahead and take the initiative anyways. If others feel threatened by you and try to sabotage your progress, what’s the worst that could happen? They fire you? Then I’d argue that your team had the wrong dynamic for you anyways, and that you should have just quit.

Frightened? Think of your mistakes as learning lessons. They’ll be much more valuable than what you can get out of a book, you know. You can also hedge your bets by soaking up knowledge and advice from more experienced people that you admire, like role models.

But make sure you realize that not all of your suggestions will be taken. You’re thinking like the CEO, but you’re not the CEO. At the end of the day, the actual CEO is the person entrusted to make the right decisions for the business. You’re at the company because you trust the CEO to do that.

Decisions shouldn’t be made by consensus; there will be many decisions with which you don’t agree. And you’ll make many suggestions that which others will not agree. At the end of the day, it’s more important to make some decision and move forward all together. That’s part of thinking like a CEO.

If you don’t like it, quit and join another company. Or start your own!

Until then, remember: You are not your job title. Think of yourself as the CEO. And soon you’ll be moving on to bigger and better places in your career!

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.