What is your job description?

“Developing your own job description shows you have a firm grasp of your current duties.”

-John Lomax

I was having lunch in one of my organization’s cafeterias, when I overheard a conversation I found particularly thought provoking.   One individual was recounting how their supervisor had come to them with a request for help.  The person was aghast, because the request was way outside of their job description.  During the rest of the conversation, both individuals chastised the absent supervisor for even considering the request–especially considering the workload everyone in their area already had.

To be fair, I did not hear the whole conversation, nor do I know any of the individuals involved (including the supervisor).  There are probably a hundred legitimate reasons why they were upset.  However, I kept returning to the fact that if they truly felt that way, they were closing themselves off to huge learning, growth, and perhaps advancement opportunities.

It is very important to understand what you are expected to do, and your job description is a good place to start looking.    I have often suggested that individuals not only become familiar with their current job description, but also take some time to review the description for any future job for which they might be interested.  Knowing both can not only help ensure you are doing what is expected of you today, but can also help you look for growth opportunities for your next position, too.

Having said that, corporate job descriptions often lack enough detail to help an individual determine what they should or shouldn’t be doing on a day-to-day basis.  Further, even if yours does provide that much detail, you should probably consider your job description to contain the bare minimum expected of you.  The simple truth is that limiting the work you accept only to what is documented in your corporate job description can be very… well… career limiting.

I was able to find a great suggestion in the book Career Mastery: Keys to Taking Charge of Your Career Throughout Your Work Life.  Harry Levinson suggests you write your own, functional job description and gives a few thoughts describing how it might be done.

  1. Divide a blank sheet of paper or spreadsheet into three columns.
  2. Title the columns “Who”, “Expectations”, and “Attitude”.
  3. Under the “Who” column, list everyone you are in contact with, in the course of your job:  Your boss, people above your boss, people who monitor your work–anyone who exerts control over you, or for whom you are expected to create deliverables.   Next to each name indicate their role with respect to you.
  4. In the “Expectations” column list what each of those in the “Who” column expects of you.  List as many expectations as you can for each.
  5. Under the “Attitude” column, describe each person’s attitude toward your work and role.  Consider formal or informal, command/control, delegatory, hands-on/hands-off.  Also list how this individual likes to receive status reports.  Do they want them written, given as a presentation, during informal conversation?

Unlike the corporate job description you might currently have, if done correctly, this document will relate specifically to you and your situation.  Additionally, this should give you a whole lot more useful information when it comes to prioritizing your tasks and fulfilling your obligations.

Call to Action:

Create a functional job description.  Once completed, review your work.  Do any patterns present themselves?  Do you see any information that might improve your ability to be successful?  Are there surprises?  What changes can you make based upon your findings?

Consider sharing this with your direct supervisor.  What thoughts or corrections can he or she add?  What insights does he or she find that you missed?

I would love to know how this works for you.  Please talk about your results in the comment section!  I’d also like to know what thoughts or suggestions occur to you as you do this exercise.  Please share.  They could be just what someone else is looking for.

Til Later!

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