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Embracing the Unknown: Transforming A Thin Job Description into An Opportunity

Most people say their job description is a far cry from what they actually do.

If this type of uncertainty causes you concern, here’s how to thrive with a vague job description. 

How Jodie turned around a lacklustre job description

A client of mine, Jodie, was newly promoted to a senior role in her consulting firm. Her move to this position was the decision of her boss, Tom, with whom she’d worked for nearly 15 years. 

This role meant she had a seat at the table “amongst the big boys.” This was a move she found both validating and intimidating as an emerging leader in STEM.

Jodie wanted to prove herself. However, in our first session, she shared her anxiety around not only the big promotion, but that the job description seemed rather vague.

Is your concern about your job description … or something else?

When asking her to take the role, Tom said: “It will be great. You’ll be my right hand – just like you’ve always been!” But ‘Tom’s Right Hand’ wasn’t a job description Jodie felt comfortable with.

She knew Tom meant to reassure her with his comment. Surely he was just very busy and creating a better job description for her was low amongst his priorities?

When discussing in her executive coaching session what she wanted from a better job description, Jodie admitted her concern was likely stemming from her fear of making a mistake. So together we worked on the fear of “letting Tom down” that was now getting in Jodie’s way.

We talked through the likelihood of mistakes, not just for this job, but for anyone in any new job. Jodie laughed, realising that anyone’s chance of making a mistake was high.

What does your ‘evidence’ tell you?

With my coaching clients, I love looking at ‘the evidence.’ So, we dug deeper to explore what happened when her colleagues made mistakes.  

Then we talked about how often in all the years she’d made mistakes that she then fixed (often) and how often she’d ever made a mistake that had ruined everything (never). 

Using the evidence, Jodie then began to see that there was less to worry about. The problem, she believed, stemmed from a poor job description was more about her fear of making a mistake. She even then joked:

“My firm has high standards; but we’re not heart surgeons, no one is going to die if I make a mistake.”

Indeed, as we spoke further, she realised with a thin job description, she had scope to get involved in a range of areas that Tom oversaw, and that there was great freedom in that. 

Indeed, as Jodie observed:

“Having not much of a job description enables me to add my own interpretation and  ‘parachute’ into areas I see he may need help without feeling like I’m stepping beyond my bounds. If I look at it that way, not having those bounds may be a win for me and for Tom too!”

Jodie said she felt much lighter after our session, like a self-imposed weight had been lifted. So if this is where you are, consider changing your perspective.

Ask yourself: How could a rather poor job description be a gift?

For Jodie, it turned out that she saw the gift in having a platform to practise new skills with advocates behind her. She also saw that being empowered often comes from being vulnerable. 

Indeed, when I asked if she’d prefer a ‘safe’ role with a long list of to-do’s, she laughed and talked about how boring that would.  She then spoke of how empowered she felt that Tom “lets me get on with it, trusting me based on what I’ve done for him before.”

Embracing the Unknown: Transforming Thin Job Descriptions into Opportunities
Article Name
Embracing the Unknown: Transforming Thin Job Descriptions into Opportunities
Embrace the unknown and transform a thin job description into a realm of possibilities. Learn from Jodie's experience as she conquers her fears, reframes her perspective, and finds the courage to explore new areas within her role. Discover how you can leverage ambiguity for personal and professional growth.
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InclusIQ Ltd.
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