Almost every organization has job descriptions and performance reviews. Overall, they are a good thing, however, they can actually stifle opportunities if they are treated as the complete, imutable description of what an employee should and should not do.
To some degree, every role in an oranization is dynamic. Tasks and obejctives change based on business necessity, expectations of management, and the capabilities and passions of the incumbent. However, most job descriptions and performance reviews are static; they don’t change along with the changing needs and personalities in an organization. As a result, they soon become dated and/or ambiguous documents that put employees in a box. The fact is, whoever wrote your job description, or even performance review, likely never had your job, or at least not recently. They don’t know the demands and opportunities of the position today as you do. They have no way of knowing your unique passions and how they can be leveraged on behalf of the organization.
People and managers in your organization don’t know what they don’t know. The very rational process of defining a job description assumes that a manager knows what a person in a role should be doing before they do it. As a person in a role with a job description and set of performance objectives, you should not put complete faith in the job description. To be clear: You are not your role as defined by someone else – you should not feel confined by how your role is described on a piece of paper.
Looking Outside Your Box
The real opportunities in your organization are likely in the space between roles. These are the opportunities you and others see that nobody is chasing, or the things you would love to do but haven’t taken the time or risk to do. It is in these spaces outside your defined role that you can find the opportunities to do what you love at work. As you do what you love, people will be attracted to you, and your organization will support and reward you. The experience of a career coaching client, Shandra, is illustrative:
At her passionate core, Shandra needed to communicate, teach, and convey stories and information in a unique and compelling way. One of her resulting passions was creating home videos.
One day, in discussing the lack of consistent and effective communication from senior management in her company, she had an idea. Shandra felt there was an opportunity to create and distribute videos of senior leader messages to help promote communications throughout the company. This wasn’t part of her job description; however, she wrote a one-page proposal and sold her manager on giving it a try in their relatively small (300 global employees) Information Technology group. Shandra used her own camcorder to tape her boss, and on her own time consulted with people on how to get the sound and graphics just right.
Shandra’s video was very well received and her manager gave her a small budget to produce and distribute a new video every quarter. As Shandra got better at video production, the awareness of her work within the organization grew. Shandra’s work became so recognized that within two and a half years of her initial video Shandra was running a small video productions group in the company. Shandra and her team of two were responsible for facilitating strategic communications in her organization through multi-media solutions such as video. In the years since, through the company lay-offs, Shandra and her group have never lost their funding. They have become an integral, even strategically important, element of the deployment of the strategy. Shandra herself has taken on additional management responsibilities over her company’s intra-web and leadership events. She has also become well known for her work outside her company and is regularly offered job opportunities in other companies. All this started with Shandra finding a space to express her passion in her company.
People don’t know what they don’t know – just as you didn’t know you enjoyed your favorite song until you heard it. People in your organization don’t know that they want, and even need, what you love until they see you do it. So, show it to them. As you do, any new job description or performance review you receive will include what you love to do.
Career Success Indicator
Take 8 minutes and complete this online self assessment to uncover your current state of career fulfillment. Go to the Career Success Indicator.
What They're Saying
The authors have a wonderful message: Stop looking for those greener pastures; they may be astroturf! Look insider first. A very important message for the impending talent war.
Beverly L. Kaye
CEO/Founder, Career Systems International; author, Love It Don't Leave It, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em, and Up Is Not the Only Way.