Clear expectations in life. We all want them. We want to know where the bar is in life and exactly how hard we need to work in order to be good enough or exceed expectations. I often joke that I don’t need to be a hero in life, but I really don’t want to be a zero. Right or wrong, there’s an element of truth to that thinking that all of us hold to. So what does carer success look like? One of the key ways we know we’re on track is if we’re meeting the bulleted list in our job description, right? Wrong.

Job Descriptions are Unclear Most of the Time

I’m not saying that there aren’t key responsibilities. Or that some companies are a squeak better at identifying clear roles. But success doesn’t come from looking at a bulleted list of tasks and checking items off as completed. Most job descriptions fail to accurately describe the job. Often times, some of the most important requirements are listed, but the vision for the role isn’t spelled out. When you get project managers compiling the initial job description and then forwarding it to the recruiting team, it often results in a list of requirements that can leave candidates unclear of future expectations.

And candidates aren’t the only ones who suffer from bad job descriptions. Current employees struggle routinely. Unclear expectations can lead to a dysfunctional team, and even toxic work environments. Job descriptions aren’t the enemy. Documentation can help to bring about order, but a bulleted list can only take you so far in defining personal success in your current and future roles.

3 Ways to Show You Believe the Myth

What’s really necessary is to stop believing the myth that a job description defines what’s in scope for your work. That initial job description just scratches the surface. Success comes when you dig a little deeper.

1. You get irritated whenever you get a task that seems outside your job description.

Sometimes, it’s understandable to get mad when you’re asked to do something that is clearly not your job. Some managers love to pile on expectations, never even considering logic, rhyme, or reason. Toxic bosses lead to burnout, but pulling out your trusty job description as your backup won’t solve the problem. Step back and consider what should be in and out of your role. Then consider what could be helpful for your career. Make a bigger grid. That initial irritation is just an indication light for you that something is wrong in the system – but it doesn’t mean that you should say no to the task.

2. You don’t offer to help others because it’s outside your job description.

Okay, now you’re just not being a team player. Staying siloed in your role and not seeing the bigger picture will only hold you back in the long run. You can’t help everyone, but you should be able to collaborate and extend to other team members when you see they need help. You never know when you’ll need the favor returned, but if you’re leaving your teammates on the hook to meet a deadline because it’s not in your job description to do more, it might be time to reconsider what success looks like for you. That type of view will always have you out on the street at the end of a contract, looking for your next role.

3. You count success as meeting task expectations.

It’s important to document your work. Most contracts typically have a weekly or monthly reporting system that encourages this type of routine documentation. But make sure you’re stepping back from your to-do list and see the bigger picture. Where do your tasks fit into the contract? Where do they help your client succeed? How are you helping your organization? Before you give yourself a high five and submit your weekly status report, assess your career goals. When this contract ends, what kind of work do you want to be doing?

Career Success Begins With Organizational Buy-In

A better way to look for career success is identifying where your role can support the success of the overall organization. You may be saying yes to a position on a contract, but once you step foot in the door, your next task is to understand how your company maintains and gains work. For some, that might mean joining the proposal team. For others, look for ways to support how your company brings in future work. That is probably outside of your current job description, and it may take a little extra (i.e. hours that aren’t billable) from you, but you could see it paying dividends down the road. Every contract has an ending date in the period of performance. If you like your employer and all that they have to offer, then invest more interest in the success of the company. Worry less about just doing what’s in your job description. Because when you help grow an organization, chances are, you’re also growing your career.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.

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