How important is your job title in Asia?

Posted by Prospect‘s Asia Pacific Team

There is no denying that job titles are important the world over. As human beings, what we do forms a huge part of our identity, self-worth and, centuries ago, even our surnames. Fast forward to the twenty first century and little has changed, particularly within the Asian market. The culture of business cards has given such huge precedence to the job title, that it is hard not to be instantly judged on a first meeting. And it’s not just clients and industry peers; whether you are a vice president or a senior manager could influence friendships, family relations and even finding a life partner.

So, how does this phenomenon affect business in Asia? Well, undoubtedly the title obsession can lead to feelings of worthlessness and dissatisfaction for workers. Even if you are highly successful in terms of your KPIs, not being promoted to a higher rank within a given timeframe, can feel like a huge blow. And as companies dish out more exciting sounding roles to appease employees’ need for status, they inevitably suffer from job title inflation. Who doesn’t have the word ‘senior’ or ‘lead’ in their title? As is the nature of inflation, this devalues the whole meaning of these supposedly impressive words.

In Asia, the issues are certainly complex but perhaps a logical solution could lie in looking beyond the title to something more tangible: the skillset. As a recruiter, employers are far more interested in a candidate’s knowledge, experience and passion for the role than their previous job title. Moreover, once you are in the interview room, a solid skillset and evident outcomes will carry far more weight than a title. The words ‘vice president’ alone will not demonstrate that you have good interpersonal and leadership skills.

But it is not just about getting the job, it’s about getting the right job for you. As a jobseeker, taking more time to study the spec and skills required, will inevitably prevent ending up in a role which does not suit. By finding out exactly what the role entails and if it is something that will motivate you day in, day out, is key to your future happiness. After all, surely being in a job that meets your aspirations in terms of growth and personal satisfaction, far outweighs the moment’s pride of flashing a new business card?

Naturally, this is easier said than done when there are networking events and family dinners to attend but maybe we need to change the way we answer the dreaded work question. How about removing your business card and job title altogether. Instead, talk about what really drives you, what you are passionate about and how you are making an impact. You may be met with ‘OK…but can I see your card?’ nevertheless you have shown what’s important to you. Ask yourself, is this person worth doing business or associating with if they are still only interested in what’s on paper?

Essentially, the Asian culture of the business card is not going to change overnight and perhaps not everyone wants it to. Titles may fill us with pride, but maybe for the wrong reasons if our 9-5 happiness is being neglected. Your skillset, passion and diligence mean more to both your employer and your long-term satisfaction. So, be brave, leave the cards at home and let your own voice define you.