I’d like to suggest you write your own job spec. Here’s why.
Before I do that, I have to confess two quick things:
- I’m not a fan of job descriptions. I see them as an archaic artefact of yesteryear.
However, I would also note that…
- I’ve written my own job description twice, and they’ve ended up being the best jobs I’ve ever had.
Given they’re so prolific, let’s start with why I’m not personally a fan.
Here’s a few random thoughts on that, as I dig deep into my soul to see where my anti-job-spec bias has come from.
- I cannot remember a day at my desk, when I needed a list to tell me what I was supposed to do. Ever.
- I don’t remember starting a new job that didn’t change or grow within a month or two of starting, leaving the job spec in its dust.
- I cannot remember recruiting someone awesome to my team because they loved the job spec and were excited to get into the listed items (particularly item 7)
- I asked a number of millennials whether they had a job spec and what they thought of it. To a person, they said ‘Yes, and it’s useless. Someone just tells me what to do or I work it out’.
- I asked a lawyer whether they thought they were essential in the modern workplace and they talked to the importance of clarity of accountability and rules. Accountability is part of the conversation about contribution and performance, but it not necessary in a job spec. Rules are important but each person doesn’t need their own personal set.
- I asked an entrepreneur if they needed job specs, and they laughed and said “You don’t need someone who needs instructions. You need a person with the right attributes to make a difference, hopefully in ways you never thought to list”.
- Every time I’ve met a bad manager, they’ve been a fan of the job spec. The more detailed, draconian, oddly pseudo-legal, and multiple-paged, the better.
- Every time I’ve seen a debate about whether a person was ‘meeting their job spec’, I’ve also been looking at a working relationship that is completely shot. If you do find yourself working with a boss who’s waggling a job spec at you, leave town fast.
I could go on, but you get the drift. I’m not a fan.
So, why do I suggest you write your own?
Well, now, the thinking on this one is not random. It’s thoughtful and clear.
It’s based on a life lesson I learned a long time ago.
Here’s my story and then I’ll tell you the lessons.
I’m working in a lovely company in Sydney. My company wants me to move to the USA. I’m keen. They start the discussion. It’s a lovely job, just a bit up from the one I’m doing. It’s working for a lovely boss, in a nice part of the company. I’ve just had my third child, Hugo, and I’m appropriately excited about heading overseas as a family, to take up this lovely appropriate next career step.
Then, because I’m on a short spot of Mat Leave, I have the headspace to think about the exact work I want to do. It’s partly what I know how to do well, partly a piece of another job I want to learn, partly an idea I have to combine some of the People and Culture work with Comms and Brand, and it’s partly a new idea that I think we should be trying. So, in a spare hour, I sat in the sun and wrote all that down. I created a job spec for a job I really wanted to do.
I added a cover letter:
“Thanks so much for the lovely and appropriate job you’ve offered me in the USA, but I’d rather like this new job I’ve created and attached here. I think it’s better way of doing HR/OD/Culture/Comms and while I recognise that I’d have to paddle hard and learn fast to do part of it, there’s some other bits that I’m really good at, and I’d more than pay my way by taking on this role”.
The Americans received my new job spec with the odd cover letter, and launched into ‘considering it’. Two days later, at 1am, I had a call from a man called Wim Heine, in The Netherlands. “I have your Job idea, and we like it. When can you move here?”.
Six weeks later, our little family of five was living in the Netherlands, working right alongside Wim, and doing a hybrid HR/OD/Culture/Comms/Brand role that I still think is the future of People and Culture. It was such a great job!! And I did have to paddle hard, but it was spectacular fun to do so.
Here’s what I learned:
- You know the baselines that mean you’re welcome on the team.
That’s the usual job spec. Jot that down. Do them well. Exceptionally well, if possible.
Then, start adding to it. What else?
- Jobs are changing, always.
When you look at your current job, think of how it could be done better. How could it add more value, be more relevant, make a bigger difference. Start making the list.
Then think of things you do that make no sense. Stop doing the dumb stuff.
You want to add value, not hours.
- Invent the future. Don’t wait for it.
Beyond your job, the whole workplace is changing. Your team. Your department. Your organisation. Your industry. Your profession. The expectations of society and customers. Think hard about the work that will matter most, or be most helpful to creating a better future. Start making the list of ‘better for the future for everyone’ things.
- You know you.
When you do a job that plays to your strengths, you can do things better than anyone expects or is asking of you. What are those super powers? – and we all have them! What can you do that would be really helpful? What are those things you bring that no one thought of doing in this job?
- At least 30% of your job should be ‘up hill hard!!’ and that growth is everything!
Job specs are so ‘baseline’, but great jobs are all about growth and learning, and finding new and better ways. Take the list of ‘have to’s’, add the list ‘super powers’ and ‘new skills’ and ideas to invent the future and make things better, and finally add something crazy that you want to learn. Now, you’re close to a job spec that will get you up in the morning, raring to go!
Now, in all seriousness, take that job spec you’ve just written, and find your organisations’ Wim Heine. Ask whether it possible that there’s just a little wriggle room for a slightly better, more stretchy and more forward-facing version of you and the work you want to do!