Do Titles Really Matter?

Do Titles Really Matter?

In the world of civil engineering consulting, different titles mean different things to different companies.

• In some firms, a Designer is an experienced AutoCad Technician who has advanced beyond drafting and is now able to complete actual design plans. In other firms, a Designer is a degreed civil engineer with his or her EIT certification.

• In some firms, a Project Manager develops client relationships, brings work in the door, and then manages all aspects of the project from inception through completion, including scheduling, budgeting, contract negotiation, employee oversight, invoicing and collections, etc, while in other firms a Project Manager is merely a Task Manager.

• In some firms, a Department Manager or Vice President may help cast the vision for the group and then develop and implement the strategy that will make that vision come to light. In other firms, those that carry those same titles are glorified Project Managers.

When considering a job change, it is crucial that you understand the org chart of the firm you are considering, and that you have a clear vision of the role you are being offered despite its corresponding title.

Let me give you a few examples:

• I have a client for whom when you become a Project Manager within their structure, it is a really big deal. Project Managers with this particular client are in essence the CEO of their own little company. They are given a team of technicians, designers, EIT’s and project engineers, and they are then tasked with nurturing and growing that team. The Project Manager is responsible for bringing in a certain amount of revenue from new and existing clients and then managing the team that works on those projects that are won. He is responsible for his team’s utilization, scheduling, budgeting, billing, collecting, QA/QC, and employee development, among other responsibilities! He or she is essentially running his or her own business within the walls of the employer he or she is working for and is compensated accordingly. In most cases, a Project Manager in a competing firm does not have half the responsibility of the Project Manager in the firm I just described.

• I am also aware of a consulting engineering firm who haphazardly hands out Department Manager titles to Project Managers who receive offers from other firms just to keep them on board and make them feel important. Their role does not change, but the new fancy title makes them feel warm and fuzzy all over so they decide to stay. It’s the most ludicrous thing, but employees continue to fall for it. All sizzle and no steak.

• I know a” Senior Landscape Architect “who is leading the Landscape Architecture practice for one of my clients in North Carolina. I know a “Senior Consultant” who is leading my client’s water/wastewater operation in a local branch. I know “Project Managers” who would run circles around many Department Managers and Vice Presidents with all they are able to accomplish. All three are critical roles without the titles you might normally expect.

At some point, especially when you hit the upper echelon of the corporate or consulting world, titles do matter. But until you reach that point in your career, when evaluating your next job change, check your ego at the door and do not get hung up so much on the title, but rather strive to truly understand the role and responsibility. Your actual experience will take you places, not your title.


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