Imagine you’ve spent hours of your time applying for your dream jobs online. You’ve already sent out your cover letters. Some hiring managers reached out to you and scheduled a meeting. You did great answering the interview questions, but when it was your turn to ask about job responsibilities, you were disappointed with what you heard. Worse, you’re already being onboarded and you realize the role has little or even nothing to do at all with what you wanted.
If you’ve ever experienced finding a mismatch between a job title and the work it entails, know that you are not alone. This is called a “Job Title Trap”.
What is a Job Title Trap?
Whether intentional or not, this is a trap caused by misleading job titles that fail to accurately reflect the nature of the work it represents.
Sometimes, they sound important but you’ll be left to cover for unwanted grunt work. Other times, you expect to do simple tasks like writing letters but end up doing more than what you’re getting paid for.
It’s also possible for a job title trap to have reasonable responsibilities, but it’s still hard to be committed to work you did not expect to do in the first place.
According to research published by the University of Washington, 46 percent of their respondents noted massive differences between their physical or remote jobs and what they actually do. On the other hand, 35 percent said there were only some mismatches present.¹
What makes a job title trap dangerous is how it can affect you as a worker. Working a niche job that is different from the one you thought you got hired for can cause job stress. And stress, as explained by The Center for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC), has negative effects on your physical and mental well-being.
How to search for the right job online.
Now that you know what a job title trap is, how exactly can you avoid it? How can you do an effective job search that will lead you to the actual position you want?
Instead of browsing job boards and job postings all day, try these steps to help you easily search for the job that fits you:
Ask yourself the right questions.
The first thing people usually ask themselves is “What job do I want?” Although this is a reasonable thought, it’s too broad, and it can lead you right into a title trap.
For you to search for more specific roles that are perfect for what you want, take things one step at a time. Don’t go to the big picture just yet. Focus on smaller details related to what you genuinely want.
Use the four W’s.
After going to so many job fairs, you finally get your dream job. Who do you want around you all day? Who do you want to call your colleagues? Who will be your customers or clients?
Answer these specific as possible. Include details like their profession, their personalities, their educational background, etc.²
Your goal is to produce precise answers to like the following:
- I want to have colleagues who are IT experts.
- I want to help middle-aged people.
- I want my coworkers to be collaborative.
- I want my customers to ask for help manufacturing something.
You already have an idea of the people you want to be around with. Now the question is, what are you doing in the picture? Are you managing people? Are you helping others with tech issues? Do you see yourself inventing something or teaching people?
Your answers need to give you an idea of what you want to do once employed. You can also include details about the day-to-day work life you want. Some examples of answers are:
- I want to provide training and guidance.
- I want to use tech programs to help others
- I want to talk with customers all day.
- I want to collaborate with my team members often.
This time, ask about things that can paint the backdrop of your imagination. Where exactly are you conducting your job? Are there certain environmental conditions your job site should meet? Is there a certain city you want to work in? Answers to these queries can be similar to these:
- I want to work in the comfort of my own home.
- I want to work at a big firm.
- I want my job sites to be surrounded by nature.
- I want to work in a university.
The picture is finally complete. You know what job you want to do, where you want to do it, and who you want to be around when doing it. The only thing left to figure out is the motivations behind your answers.
For every detail you provided, ask yourself “Why do I prefer this?” The answers you come up with will be reflective and help you understand yourself.
- I want to help people build places they can call home.
- I want to teach my clients how to use social media platforms.
- I want my clients to have a hassle-free experience.
Knowing about your motivations will help you understand what you really want to do and not just the title you want to have.
Refine your online job search method.
The problem with simply inputting positions into search engines or job search sites is that you might miss the work you want that is labeled differently.
For example, you want to be a ‘programmer’ but other companies use the term ‘software developer’. Typing in the first term to job search engines will not result in the latter even if they have the exact same job description.
So instead of putting a job posting on the job search site you’re using or trying to find one specific term on a job board, you can considering using the categories below.
Field you want to be a part of
If you are one of the job seekers who are open to any position as long as it is within their field of expertise, then consider writing the industry you belong to.
Examples of keywords you can use when searching are:
- Occupation in manufacturing
- Position in the tech industry
- Engineering employment
Experiences you have to offer
Aside from skills, one aspect that contributes to your expertise is your experiences. When trying to search for employees, companies look for job seekers who have already done the responsibilities attached to the role.
Keywords related to your experiences have more chances of obtaining better results than a specific title.
Some examples you can input are as follows:
- Building projects
- Programming applications
- Designing establishments
Skills and abilities you have
Similar to experiences, the skills and abilities you can contribute have higher chances of yielding better results when added to job search sites.
The important thing to consider when deciding which skill to write is its distinction. You see, the ability can be categorized into two: general occupational skills and industry-specific occupational skills.³
General Occupational Skills – These are the basic skills needed for the job that you want. For example, a builder knows how to measure materials, cut them with a sharp object, and assemble them with tools like nails and hammers. A person cannot be a builder if they are not familiar with these foundational skills.
Industry-specific Occupational Skills – These skills are more specific to the industry you choose. They are still built on general occupational skills but require more detail. Let’s use the builder again as an example. With their skills, they can join the metal industry since they can measure, cut, and assemble metal. Or they can join professional tile installers since they have the skillset needed for it.
With this in mind, you can personalize the keywords you use in your online job search.
If you do not have a specific industry in mind, use general occupational skills when searching. If you want to be a part of a certain organization, translate your basic skills into industry-specific ones and use them to find job alerts and offers.
Widen your considerations.
During your search on job websites, do not confine yourself only to certain companies. There are a lot of opportunities and offers out there. The title of the job or the popularity of a certain business should not dictate where you work. Instead, focus on opportunities, offers, and employer branding that fits you and the things you value.
Another thing to remember is that your professional journey does not follow the ‘first come, first served’ ideology. Just because one employer responded faster means that they are the best one for you.
Instead of accepting offers immediately, you need to research, research, and research. Find out their goals and values. Take the time to visit company websites. Check out the LinkedIn profile of previous employees you know. Look for people of authority who can offer career advice about the role given to you.
Read more: Being Ready To Accept A Job Offer
Check the employer branding of your potential employers to figure out if you’re a good fit for the role on their job boards or social media posts.
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Being in the industry since 1985, DAVIS Companies is dedicated to helping people create meaningful professional paths towards their goals. Build a deeper understanding of what you can offer and, with our help, find the role that best fits you. Contact us today to start!
- Barbouletos, Alexandra. “Integrating Ergonomics into the Design of a New Workspace: A Capstone Project.” University of Washington, 2010, https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/bitstream/handle/1773/17087/Barbouletos-Capstone%20%282%29.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. “Stop Using Job Titles to Guide Your Search.” Harvard Business Review, 22 Feb. 2021, https://hbr.org/2021/02/stop-using-job-titles-to-guide-your-search.
- Boswell, Malcolm. “Avoid the Job Title Search Trap.” LinkedIn, 2 Mar. 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/avoid-job-title-search-trap-malcolm-boswell?trk=pulse-article_more-articles_related-content-card