by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | June 01, 2017

Your job title is second only to your name on your business card, LinkedIn profile, convention name tag -- perhaps even your résumé. It's an important identifier not only of what we do for a living, but, to a large extent, who we are.

That title also influences our professional reputation and opportunities for advancement, insist career coaches and human-resources executives. While they vary greatly from company to company and industry to industry, job titles and responsibilities are tightly interwoven. They set the scene for expectations because they convey an immediate message of where we stand in the business hierarchy and what our responsibilities entail.

That's precisely why "meeting planner" is facing scrutiny by many in our business. While some might argue that it's shortsighted to get hung up on a title, others counter that "planner" is limiting and does it not accurately convey the depth or complexity of the role. Even more problematic, some argue, the title of meeting planner undermines their standing within their organizations and with key outsiders, like potential clients and vendors. 

 



In a recent poll by M&C that drew hundreds of respondents in less than 48 hours, fully 73 percent said they did not believe the title of meeting planner accurately reflects the responsibilities of the job, and 69 percent agree that when they tell someone outside the industry that they plan meetings, "they think I'm a party planner or a travel agent." (Go to Research and online at mcmag.com/research for more.)

"The title is so vague that many people don't understand that meeting planning is a career, a profession, and not just a task," says 20-year veteran planner Kristin Torres, executive director, meetings and events, for the Denver-based National Cattlemen's Beef Association. "It doesn't automatically put you top of mind for leadership when they are looking for managers to have a seat at the table. I am fortunate that my title has always reflected my level within the organization, but many planners simply don't have that recognition."


What's in a name?
In 2014, the study Job Titling Practices was published by New York-based compensation consulting firm Pearl Meyer & Partners. The results, based on data provided by 248 organizations, were both intriguing and confusing. While 80 percent of respondents said job titles are intended to reflect the corporate hierarchy, and more than 92 percent said titles define an employee's role, fewer than 40 percent felt job titles were important and/or expected them to convey authority and responsibility.

But titles absolutely do matter, especially for those considering a new career opportunity, according to Michelle Peters, founder of Superior Township, Mich.-based Resumes Transformed, a full-service résumé-writing, career-consulting and personal-branding firm. One dilemma is that when you've held the same title for years but your job has evolved, the title no longer reflects your skills and experience.

"A job title communicates to the world what you do," says Peters. "It tells potential employers where you're at in your career and what they might be able to expect if they hire you. When you have to explain that you did a lot more than your title implies, you sacrifice prime résumé real estate, and your reader might assume you are not a good fit."

In Colleen McQuone's experience, too much emphasis can be placed on the title of meeting planner, even by those in the industry, particularly hoteliers and destination marketing organizations. Before founding Atlanta-based McQ1 Meetings & Events Services, McQuone was a program manager at a large pharmaceutical company overseeing five planners and an $11 million budget. Yet, when she applied to attend several hosted-buyer events, she was turned down. "Because meeting planner wasn't my title, I didn't have references from hotels that have worked with and knew me, so I didn't get approved," McQuone says. "Are we so blind in this industry that we see the planner role in only the person who signs the contracts? Are we so oblivious? I practically had to demote myself so I could fit into the box they wanted me to on their application forms."