You know how to define a job opening. There are the standard descriptions found in the company’s Employee Manual, Human Resources guides and employment contracts. Take one or more of them, mix and match as needed and boom goes the dynamite: job description delivered.
But take a look at the job description for your job. Go ahead. We’re willing to bet dollars to doughnut holes that when you read it, you’ll say: “That isn’t all I do.” The reason you and pretty much anyone else who reads their job descriptions after they’ve been employed for a while is that what was defined initially was a position and what you have created is a role. Using the 1947 movie “Dangerous Years” as an example, it’s the difference between “Waitress” (the script’s designated position) and “Marilyn Monroe,” the actress that played the role well enough to get “promoted” to “Evie,” a better position than that of mere “waitress.”
A job description is often a cut-and-dried definition suited to plug into an organizational chart so the box has meaning. But what job definitions tend to forget is that the role emerges from the person in the position, transforming dried legalese to a living breathing participant in the organization.
Some companies try to overcome this limitation by making their job descriptions more detailed, or even “fun.” The first sets up the company for dissatisfaction because no one is perfect to the last detail and the lengthy list creates expectations that are unrealistic or unneeded. The “fun” job descriptions are not about the job, but about the image the company wants to project. Branding has its place in corporate communications, but not when the purpose is to create a relationship: at that point, branding is like someone who spends all their time talking about themselves and then asks, “So what do you think about me?”
Here’s a better approach: Define the job according to the role played by the person or persons who have/had that job. If your Receptionist was a clear communicator who helped the company by making friends with suppliers, then sue that as part of the jib description. You certainly don’t want to lose that valuable effort and the basic definition of a receptionist almost certainly won’t include
“building a friendship network” in its description. But in this case, it should.
Making a job description “100”, as in 100% real, is to take the time to describe what the job is rather than what the job was defined as. Take into account what the person in that job has done to redefine the position, highlight the valuable new aspects and let the candidates know what the job is in reality so they can imagine themselves in it and placing their own personal stamp on it.
Think of the difference between “Waitress” and “Marilyn Monroe.” A position is something pretty much anyone can fill, but a role is something that can definitely have an everlasting impact.
By Gil C. Schmidt, Sharpline Contributor
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