How Your Job Title Affects The Way People Treat You

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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where people ignore you and then change their attitude the moment they hear your job title?

I haven’t.

But Mr. FAF has been in that situation frequently after he got three job offers from three giant tech companies in the US a few months ago.


For the past six years, Mr. FAF has been in a PhD program in Computer Science where he got a meager monthly stipend in exchange for performing teaching and research assignments.

It wasn’t a glorious life by any means. While some people were impressed that he was pursuing a doctoral degree, the reality is that Mr. FAF lived the life of a poor PhD student during our four-year marriage.

He lived in a (shabby) makeshift room which was originally a garage. The rent was $250/month, and it included everything (i.e. utilities, internet).

Two armed robbers broke into the house and threatened the lives of his roommates and landlord just 20 minutes before Mr. FAF came home one day.

Mr. FAF refused to move because the rent was low, and he wanted to save money.


Earlier this year, Mr. FAF started his job search. He reached out to many people to network and seek job leads.

Some offered him great advice, and some just didn’t have the time or the willingness to help. Mr. FAF ended up getting three offers as a Software Engineer from three giant tech companies in the US.

After his colleagues, friends, and acquaintances learned about the offers, Mr. FAF’s life seems to have turned over a new leaf.

The female colleague who didn’t even bother to look at him when she ran into him every day has become overly enthusiastic to talk to him. She smiles at Mr. FAF and asks him how his day is going whenever she sees him. She even asked him to give a talk about the job interview process in a class she’s teaching.

The colleagues who didn’t respond to Mr. FAF messages on Facebook asking about housing now suddenly likes every of his new statuses and sent him private messages to congratulate him on the new job offers.

The friend who gave Mr. FAF a lukewarm response when Mr. FAF wanted to learn more about their companies added him on LinkedIn all of a sudden and called him to ask about his job offers.

Some people suddenly became friendly after years of not talking to Mr. FAF and asked him for advice on how to get into the same companies.

Our thoughts

Mr. FAF, though happy about what he has accomplished, is not so thrilled with the sudden change of attitude from his colleagues and “friends.” If people just want to get to know him and talk to him because of his job title, what would happen to the relationship if one day Mr. FAF decided to quit or do a manual job for a living?

Many people might just enjoy the attention and don’t overthink it. But we don’t want someone to befriend us just because they know they can get something out of the friendship.

It’s also sad to think that we didn’t have anything of value to offer to other people to the extent that they treated us like we didn’t exist before.

I think this might happen to men more than women. Social stereotypes dictate that men need to be successful and wealthy while women need to be pretty and attractive. That’s what makes a good first impression.

I once heard a story about a guy going to a Meetup group and got ignored by a girl he wanted to talk to.

The girl changed her attitude completely once she overheard him telling someone else that he was a pharmacist. By that time, he had already known what about him she was interested in and no longer had any interest in talking with her.

Are we guilty too?

It’s easy to blame other people for doing something we don’t like. But are we guilty of that too? If I go to an event and meet someone working at my dream job, I’m sure I’d show them a different kind of admiration than someone working at a company I have never heard of or in a field that I’m not familiar with.

It’s not because I respect the latter less in any way. But my mind has been hardwired to associate a big brand with prestige, a high salary, intelligence, integrity, and hard work (think Google and their employees).

Each employee may differ in their qualifications and performance, but once someone has passed the threshold to join a certain company (think Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase), we tend to associate their value with the company’s reputation, sometimes subconsciously.

To draw it closer to home, would you be more interested in talking to a big blogger such as Joe at Retire By 40 or Michelle at Making Sense of Cents or to me, a newbie blogger if we all showed up at the same conference?

While it’s good to network with everyone and meet other bloggers who are at similar stages, I’m sure you would find it inspirational and thrilling to talk to the big names in the personal finance community. Who wouldn’t be?

Where do we draw the line?

Mr. FAF and I try not to do something that we don’t want other people to do to us. Giving other people special treatment just because they have something we can take advantage of while not caring about their values is one of those things.

We really admire those who work hard and build their success from scratch. But we also know that no one can become a superstar all by themselves. Mr. FAF and I have gone this far in our journey thanks to the help that we have received from families, friends, and those who don’t know us well but are willing to give us a hand.

We have to admit that we haven’t done the best job of staying in touch with them and giving them the attention that they deserve. We are still working on improving our relationships with the ones we love and care about.

There is nothing wrong with trying to get to know and stay connected with someone we admire and aspire to. After all, connection and networking is what helps us successful.

And someone’s job title, to some extent, reflects their qualifications, dreams, and socioeconomic status in today’s society. Sometimes it’s their job title that can help us get our dream job, build our dream business, and get us in touch with the big influencers.

But if we ask the question “Will I still treat them the same way if they didn’t have that job title?” can help us determine whether we care about someone as a person rather rather than a potential added benefit to our lives. It’s because once that benefit no longer exists, the relationship will also vanish.

For Mr. FAF, he knows that regardless of his job title, I will still feel the same way about him as I did when he was still a poor student living in the $250/month garage turned bedroom.


The Life Of A Poor PhD Student

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17 thoughts on “How Your Job Title Affects The Way People Treat You”

  • I understand your thoughts completely. I don’t want to know people who only are interested in me when/if I’m successful. But I also think there’s some nuance. For instance, at FinCon I want to meet you and other bloggers I interact with and really want to be friends with. With you guys I want to sit around and schmooze and drink and eat. But I also want to meet and say hello to some of the more famous bloggers because I’m impressed by what they’ve accomplished. But I don’t need to or expect to socialize with them.

    • Thank you, Mrs. Groovy! I’d love to meet you if I go to FinCon too. There are so many inspiring people around us, and it’s totally reasonable for us to want to interact with them. I feel the same way! 😀

  • I get this A LOT! I am a African American female and I get ignored a lot outside of the employment arena. I chalk a good bit of that to the fact that I am an introvert and can be quiet and standoffish. However, when someone finds out I am an attorney I find I can easily become the center of attention. People who previously only gave me an off hand glance suddenly become very interested. I often wonder how much is because I am introverted, how much is because I am female and how much is because I am a minority.

    • ” I chalk a good bit of that to the fact that I am an introvert and can be quiet and standoffish.”

      You made a great point. I think Mr. FAF has a bit of everything you mentioned above. That might make people less willing to talk to him.

      Regardless of what people think, becoming an attorney took a lot of work. I’d be so proud 🙂

  • I guess that’s life. Passing acquaintances will be more interested if they know you can do something for them. Close friends don’t care as much. My college buddies don’t care if I’m a blogger or an engineer.
    I guess that’s networking.

    • You made a great point about networking! It’s for sure different the usual chatting and making friends. I don’t think my friends really care about my job title either. I think they just feel good knowing that I’m actually doing something useful with my life. 😀

  • There’s a bit of a nuance here to be honest. I would not, and people should not, treat you differently in general because of your title or where you work. But, it’s perfectly reasonable to search out people with specific roles or companies for a discussion because it interests you, Take your fincon example. I’d have a conversation with anyone there, but I might try to find JMoney to pick his brain about what’s worked for him. That’s not a slight to anyone that comes up, but it is an aspect of searching for someone with success in the field to learn tips. Similarly everyone wants to know what it’s like to work at google. So some degree of additional attention for those folks is expected. In your husbands case they all want/need jobs when their PhD is over. Their going to want to learn more about his opportunities.

  • I keep my inner circle simple. Their is my fiancé, and our close family and friends. They will always get our primary attention and focus.

    When it comes to others…I ALWAYS give the same amount of respect to everyone I come by. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of Amazon, or the security guard at the door. Growing up in sports, I was taught that although those at the top of their games may seem like Gods, at the end of the day they bleed the same type of blood that I do. There is no true difference between me and them. This may sound graphic, but it taught me to view and treat everyone the exact same.

    I treat others with the respect that I would want, and it doesn’t really bother me how they respond because they aren’t in my close inner circle. If I get a happy response, great. If I get an ignored response, great. It’s easy to find the foxes in life this way, and it has definitely served me well!

  • Aw, that’s a really horrible thing to do in my opinion. I know we all do it at one point or another but if it’s so overt (like the girl) it’s just embarrassing. But I’ve seen it happen to other people. It never happened to me though, I’m forever pretty much not useful to anyone haha 🙂

  • In networking events, the first thing you’re always asked was “What do you do”? I remember a few events that I attended to when I was still working for the Fed and asked that same question, and most responses were “Hmmm…that’s stable job!”.

  • This is so true – I️ own a business and sometimes do the delivering and if they think I️ am just the delivery person I️ am ignored and dismissed but if the know I️ am the owner different story

  • I ran a company with hundreds of employees in a town of only thousands and everyone seemed to know me and treat me deferentially. My daughter was an engineer intern at the facility I ran and she told me how one senior engineer there had totally ignored her until he found out she was my kid. After that he fawned over her. She had no use for him, at all! The real test of character is how you treat the janitorial crew or your wait person when no one is watching. They are every bit as important as you and have their own dreams and hopes that matter as much as yours.

  • Unfortunately, nowadays that’s a large part of life. We’re caught up in the likes, the trips, the things we buy. None of that should matter, but it does.

    Right now, I’m pretty much FI, when my stock options kick in I’ll be retired. For now, I just keep telling everyone I’m a broke boy, dressing in t shirts and sweatpants. Lucky for me, I only have to dust off the fancy stuff if I go to a company meeting, for now it’s work at home, look at the monitor. ?

    I’ve already got friends who like me for me, that’s all I’ll ever need.

    I bet Mr. FAF is grateful for all the support you’ve given him all these years. To have an unconditional love, is what keeps a man going in trying times. Glad that it’s all looking up, but you still need to keep your wits about you!

  • For better or worse, a job title does convey a level of power, responsibility, and knowledge. In a work environment, you are likely trying to advance your position in the company. I can see how many people would unknowingly treat someone with a fancy title different, than say an entry level engineer, as they are trying to improve their own condition. I’m not saying it’s ‘right’, but I understand why it occurs.

  • Wow, people suck. I really try and avoid people with those characteristic as much as possible. I practise stealth wealth and stealth status, it let’s me see people’s true colours early on.

    And power doesn’t really do it for me, I prefer talking to interesting people I like talking to than the high and powerful. Clearly I suck at networking!

  • When I made it to Senior Director at my job everyone started treating me differently. I was uncomfortable with it and am glad that I gave up that status by semi-retiring. To me, the way they treated me was kinda phony. Like, overnight now you’re going to kiss my ass? What do you expect in return?

    The whole thing soured my tastes to the hierarchies of W2 jobs even more.

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