“Don’t worry about titles. Titles don’t really matter.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that before.

When I first entered the startup world, I thought my opinion that titles do matter was my own ego speaking. Maybe I just wanted to look good and tout my fancy title like a badge of honor: “Look, Mom! Look what I got!”

But I quickly realized my ego wasn’t really the factor. The fact of the matter was that I was putting in work beyond my title, and the work I was doing actually fit into another title completely.

Now, if you work for a large company, there’s probably a pretty structured career growth framework that follows the appropriate standards of job titling. But at a startup, that’s almost definitely not going to exist. That means you need to do something about it.

Let’s get to the main point here: titles matter.

Say you’re a social media coordinator. You engage with your company’s audience via various social media channels, and you plan and publish consistent posts. Now, as every good startup job goes, you start wearing more hats. Soon you find yourself working on broader marketing strategies, helping with a copy as needs arise, contributing to broader communications tasks, and more.

Does the title of social media coordinator still fit? Not really. And that matters.

For one, according to Glassdoor, the national average salary of a social media coordinator is about $43,000, but you’re now filling the role of a marketing specialist, which is on average about $62,000. So you’re being dramatically underpaid.

But let’s take it a step further and say you’re ready to move on from your current company. You revamp your resume and LinkedIn and highlight everything you did as a social media coordinator. You read job descriptions at various companies and notice that your experience closely aligns with marketing specialist roles. So you begin to apply to those—and you don’t get any interviews.

The problem could lie in your current title. If recruiters or business owners are getting enough applications, they might only have time to scan your application and resume. They’re likely to notice the titles that closely match what they’re looking for. So, even if you’ve done the work of a marketing specialist, your social media coordinator title is what’s sticking out to them.

It’s also important to note that hiring managers love to see growth over the years, and even if your responsibilities shifted, it can get lost if it’s all under one title.

HOW TO FIGURE OUT THE RIGHT TITLE

If you’re getting the feeling that what you’re consistently working on has moved beyond your title, it may be time to do some digging.

Start by researching different roles in your industry and field. As you do that, take notes:

  • What job titles come up a lot? Having a job title that’s “familiar” to recruiters can be a big help in a job search.

  • What are the different levels of job titles (e.g., associate, assistant, senior)? You might even want to make a little org chart for yourself to understand where you fall among these levels.

  • What responsibilities in these descriptions match your current role? Which titles most closely represent what you’re doing?

You should do all this with a forward-thinking mindset. Do you see any job titles that look like what you want to do, even if it’s not what you do now? If so, you can work backward from there: figure out what the level below that is, or find people in that role and see what their previous title was. (A quick LinkedIn snoop should do the trick.) That will help you title yourself to be successful in your next career step.

Oh, one thing to be careful of is “unique” titles. You’ll see job posts for things like “marketing guru”  or “happiness maker” or something. Just skip those—they’re too vague and don’t map to anything that will help you down the line.

HOW TO ASK FOR A TITLE CHANGE

If you work somewhere that’s so startup-y that your title isn’t actually recorded anywhere (i.e., you don’t have HR or payroll software that stores your job information), you might just be able to change your title on LinkedIn and call it a day. But otherwise, you need to ask for a title change.

I don’t know if these conversations ever get easier. They always feel a little awkward, and having to advocate for yourself and your career can be uncomfortable (even if that’s not how it should be).

Once you’ve done your research, made your notes, and come up with a proposal for a new title, set up a meeting with your manager—face-to-face or at least Zoom face-to-Zoom face. Here’s your agenda:

  • Let them know you want to talk about your career growth and specifically your title.

  • Tell them how much you’ve enjoyed being the Social Media Coordinator and how much you’ve learned and grown.

  • Mention the responsibilities you held at the beginning and how they’ve shifted, and talk about what responsibilities you hold now.

  • Segue into the research you did, and mention how important your growth is to you.

  • Talk about how your current role and responsibilities translate well into the Marketing Specialist position and ask if making this change would be something that could be considered.

  • Reassure them that this is a forward-thinking request and that you’re not actively looking for other job opportunities (assuming that’s actually the case).

  • Let them know that you don’t expect a decision immediately and that you’ll send over a copy of your notes and research. You want to give them time to be sure the title is aligned with the company’s goals and growth as well. (And when they do give you the new title, you’ll know it was a well-thought-out decision.)

These suggestions come from experience. When I realized that the work I was doing actually fit into another title completely, I did the research and I had a tough conversation with company leadership. It wasn’t easy—not because they thought I was unworthy of the title, but because they didn’t understand why it mattered and if it was worth the hassle to get it updated.

I powered through, had several conversations about it, and finally got that title change. It also paved the way for other people at the company to have similar conversations—and, of course, it helped me grow in my career.

GET THE RIGHT TITLE

Titles aren’t arbitrary. People who tell you they are, probably have fancy titles of their own.

Titles show off years of growth and hard work and have the ability to steer your career in the right direction. They’re tied to compensation, they outline the steps that lie ahead, and they make you more (or less) attractive as you search for jobs.

I think that eventually, employees won’t have to consistently advocate for this kind of deserved recognition. But until then, it’s important to remember that your title matters—and do something about it.

More than six years ago, Kevin F. Adler walked the streets of his San Francisco neighborhood with an unusual purpose: He wanted to get to know its homeless residents.

During that time, he met a man named Jeffrey, who had been a missing person for 12 years.

After posting on social media, Adler was able to reconnect Jeffrey with his family, who had not seen him in more than 20 years.

“I started having conversations with folks on the streets, and over and over again, I heard people say, ‘I never realized I was homeless when I lost my housing, only when I lost my family and friends,’” Adler said.

The experience inspired Adler, whose own uncle was homeless for 30 years, to create a program called Miracle Messages to help reunite other unhoused individuals with their loved ones.

Today, the program has reunited about 500 families across the U.S., according to Adler.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Miracle Messages expanded its programs to take its help even further. It started matching unhoused individuals with members of the community to help build relationships.

Then, it raised money to pilot a universal basic income project for the homeless.

Universal basic income has become a buzz term, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang made the concept popular when he pledged to give Americans $1,000 per month with no strings attached.

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Is the Biden child tax credit a precursor to a universal basic income?

Now, UBI experiments are popping up in cities across the U.S. Moreover, federal programs tied to Covid-19 like stimulus checks and monthly child tax credit payments have been compared to a guaranteed income.

This new program, dubbed Miracle Money, is the first of its kind to target the homeless in the U.S. One program in Vancouver, Canada, called the New Leaf Project has also tested the concept.

Miracle Money began fundraising in December 2020 and ultimately raised around $50,000 through individual donors.

Then, in February, the program began distributing payments of $500 per month to 14 unhoused individuals in the local area.

The participants were selected from nominations within the community.

A temporary sanctioned tent encampment for the homeless across from the City Hall in San Francisco on May 28, 2020.
A temporary sanctioned tent encampment for the homeless across from the City Hall in San Francisco on May 28, 2020.
Lui Guanguan | China News Service | Getty Images

The program was designed so that the $500 monthly income would not interfere with other government benefits the participants may receive.

All of the participants had to set up bank accounts in order to receive the money. They also were paired with a “buddy” from the community, with whom they would keep in touch. Financial coaches were also available upon request to help them navigate their new resources.

Notably, there were no requirements as to how they used the money.

The initial results of that pilot were “astonishing,” Adler said, with more than 35% of the participants able to use that monthly income to secure permanent housing. “I wasn’t anticipating anyone getting housed. That was not even a thing we were measuring at first,” Adler said.

One of those participants who were able to turn his living circumstances — and life — around is Ray, 49. (Ray requested his last name be withheld for privacy reasons).

His connection with the program began when someone knocked on the door of the temporary housing where he was staying. The question they asked was simple, he said: “Do you want to have a friend to talk to every now and then?”

Ray, left, and Jennifer Roy were paired together as part of the Miracle Friends program. Today, Ray calls it a "lifesaving experience."
Ray, left, and Jennifer Roy were paired together as part of the Miracle Friends program. Today, Ray calls it a “lifesaving experience.”
Jim Madden

After saying yes, Ray was connected to Jennifer Roy, a Marin County resident and Miracle Friend volunteer who developed a friendship with him and ultimately nominated him to participate in the UBI pilot.

Ray became homeless after he suffered heart failure, which he blames partly on overwork due to the stress and travel his sales job required.

Participating in the program was a “lifesaving experience,” he said.

He was able to fully reconnect with his 18-year-old daughter after regaining the sense that he could help provide for her.

“Miracle Friends gave me the one thing that I really didn’t have being unhoused and that was the confidence that I could be part of somebody’s life,” he said.

One thing we should be doing is trusting the ingenuity and resourcefulness of some of the individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Kevin F. Adler
FOUNDER AND CEO OF MIRACLE MESSAGES

Ray also found work, first at a Covid-19 testing site, and then at a vaccination center as the pandemic wore on.

“Just to get up every morning and have a purpose was amazing,” he said.

Today, after watching his daughter graduate from high school and prepare to move away to college, he has made a move of his own. Ray has relocated to Kansas and paid for the first six months of rent in an apartment he shares with a friend. Having money set aside has also given him the opportunity to focus on his health.

But the social support he gained from the program through the relationship with Roy and others was even more valuable, he said.

“Being unhoused, one thing that’s easy to do is to go on with life by yourself and not pay any mind to anyone, or not even reach out to people when you really need to, you’re accustomed to being alone,” Ray said. “It wasn’t a roof over my head — I needed to not feel hopeless anymore.”

Roy said she has also noticed a transformation as their friendship has grown.

“Ray has realized I can’t do this alone,” Roy said. “I don’t want to do this alone. It’s really about community.”

While Ray has received more help than he ever anticipated, she said, he’s also realized how much he has to give back as a result of those relationships he has formed.

Both say they anticipate being lifelong friends, despite the geographic distance between them.

In addition to securing housing, program participants have found success in other ways, such as by acquiring service dogs or buying appliances they need.

Miracle Messages founder and CEO Kevin F. Adler with a homeless man in San Francisco's Union Square on Jan. 29, 2019.
Miracle Messages founder and CEO Kevin F. Adler with a homeless man in San Francisco’s Union Square on Jan. 29, 2019.
San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images | Hearst Newspapers | Getty Images

“They used the money better than any way that I could have told them to use the money,” Adler said.

“One thing we should be doing is trusting the ingenuity and resourcefulness of some of the individuals who are experiencing homelessness and what barriers they have already confronted in getting housed and resources,” he said.

Now, the program plans to assess how it can continue to provide financial help beyond its initial $50,000 pilot, Adler said.

That includes potentially partnering with other cities and communities who want to develop similar programs, or possibly running additional pilots themselves, Adler said.

Meanwhile, its other programs to reunite homeless individuals with loved ones or pair them up with buddies continue to grow nationwide, Adler said.

A large part of the lure of remote work isn't that we hate the office — it's that we hate the experience of getting there.

Worsening congestion and expensive housing that pushes us farther from work had already made the physical commute increasingly painful — and then the pandemic came along.

 Survey after survey shows workers at the very least want an option to retain some remote work even after the pandemic — and they're willing to take a pay cut or quit to get it.

  • In a survey this month from workplace management company Hubble HQ, 79% of respondents said the best thing about remote work was the lack of a commute.

That shouldn't be surprising — research from psychologist Daniel Kahneman ranked the commute as the average person's single most miserable daily experience.

  • And it's been getting worse: Data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute 2021 Urban Mobility report found annual traffic delay per commuter rose from 20 hours in 1982 to 54 hours before the pandemic began, while the cost of all that delay rose from $15 billion to $101 billion.
  • The situation was often worst in regions where jobs were hottest and homes were most expensive, forcing people to live far from work. A 2013 paper from the U.S. Census Bureau found the San Francisco Bay area led the nation in the percentage of "mega commuters" — commuters who traveled 50 miles or more one way — with the New York metro area coming in second.

Then the pandemic came, and commute times dropped drastically. Texas A&M estimates annual traffic delay per consumer fell to 27 hours in 2020.

  • But even that drop is deceptive. For those Americans whose jobs could be done from home — of which 71% reported working remotely as of the end of 2020 — commute delays essentially dropped to zero.

Office employees who had been experiencing ever more miserable commutes for years suddenly got a glimpse of life without the daily car, bus, or train trip.

  • A good chunk of them responded by moving farther away from where offices are located in search of more space and lower costs in the suburbs, which means that if suddenly everyone had to return to the office, that daily commute would likely be even worse.
  • No wonder the majority of U.S. employees want to retain at least the option of remote work — from e-commerce to home movie streaming to eating habits, convenience tends to trump all in America, especially as advances in technology make that convenient choice more palatable.

Convenience comes with a cost in all of those areas, work included.

  • Data from Microsoft indicates remote work led employees to cluster more heavily in silos, which makes it harder to innovate and break out of groupthink.
  • Even remote-work proponents like Github COO Erica Brescia — whose company is more than 70% remote — note they're still investing in in-person, collaborative-focused office space, "for human connection and that change of scenery."
  • Facebook this week introduced its Horizon Workrooms VR app, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg telling reporters that "we shouldn't really have to physically be together to feel present or collaborate or brainstorm."

 Whatever you think of Workrooms or VR — and it's easy to mock — the product's existence is an indication that one of the most powerful people in tech believes that something is lost without group collaboration and that virtual spaces to do that can eventually be made near equivalent to physical ones.

The same likely won't be true of the physical world.

  • Congestion didn't become a nightmare by accident — it's the result of decades of underinvestment in transportation infrastructure as well as housing policies that have made living close to major cities ruinously expensive.
  • Planes, trains, and automobiles — we haven't gotten any faster at moving from point A to B, and by some measures, we've gotten slower.
  • What we're seeing around work is a reflection of technology trends — innovation moves rapidly when it comes to bytes, and far more slowly when it comes to atoms.

The bottom line: If the choices come down to working in Zuckerberg's VR office or returning to the daily commute, it's not hard to see many American workers grudgingly picking up a headset.

When you’re looking for a job, it’s difficult to find out what benefits companies offer until you’re far along in the hiring process. Mary Childs and Karishma Vanjani canvassed 101 of the biggest and most influential firms in financial services, one of the highest-paying industries in the US, to find out what they offer to employees; 32 of them replied. Here are a few that stood out:

  • Best vacation policy Bridgewater offers unlimited vacation, and employees have to take at least 15 paid days of vacation per year.
  • Best if you’ve got student loans Fidelity contributes $2,000 per year up to a lifetime maximum of $10,000 toward employees’ student loans.
  • Best retirement benefits Capital Group contributes 15% of total compensation, no matter how much the employee puts in.