How to write your own job description (and invent your role)

Creating a new position for yourself--one that doesn't yet exist--sounds too good to be true. But many of us have done it, and I’ve personally done it multiple times. I want to share a few ideas that will help you do it too.

Maybe you’ve grown tired of your current job responsibilities. Or maybe you see an opportunity to contribute, but the role isn’t listed on your company’s careers page. You might think there’s nothing else you can do--except wait for your fortune to change.

Luckily, writing your own job description can be the solution.

This is your chance to get creative about what you would like to work on that adds value to your organization. Here are a few things to keep in mind to get a “yes” from your hiring manager.

A role custom-made for you

What’s the benefit of writing your own job description? The better question is, what’s not to love about it?

You get to:

  1. Work on cool projects you like and can contribute to.

  2. Remove tasks off your plate that you’re not good at.

  3. Craft a role entirely around what you can uniquely contribute.

That sounds like the best thing ever to me. If you’ve ever felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole, well, writing your own job description is creating a square hole for yourself. It is a role tailor made for your unique strengths and abilities.

A lot of people have either officially or unofficially written their own job description, and are reaping the benefits. So how do you get in on the fun?

It’s not about you at all

I know I just said this is a role tailor made for you, which we can all agree sounds amazing. But let’s take a step back because there’s an important caveat.

A common mistake I see when talking to folks who want to write their own job description: They think it’s about them. It feels like free rein to focus on your perfect job. “Finally! I can craft a job entirely around what I like doing and am good at.”

The truth: it’s all about YOUR MANAGER. It’s about what role would make your manager’s life easier/better. This is relevant whether you’re speaking to a hiring manager for a new position you’re interviewing for, or your existing manager at your current company.

This applies at all levels of seniority in an organization, too. You could be joining a company as a CMO reporting to the CEO. Or as a manager reporting to a senior manager.

You always have to pitch the idea in terms of what matters to the other person.

How to decide what your job description should include

It’s more fun to do things you’re good at. When you’re good at something and like doing it, you’ll stay energized and motivated through the tough times. And why write your own job description if you don’t get to include stuff you actually want to do?

To get started, find the overlap of what you are good at, what you like to do, and what is valuable for your organization. This exercise is usually non-linear, at least in my experience.

You can approach this top down or bottom up.

The bottom up approach is to draw out a Venn Diagram:

  • “Here’s what I’m good at.”

  • “Here’s what I like to do.”

  • “Here’s what my manager would find useful.”

Once you write these out, find the overlap.

This approach is logical, but I find it doesn’t flow organically for me. I can fill out the bubbles of a Venn Diagram, but still not really know how to frame the overlapping piece in the middle.

Instead, I like to use a top down approach, i.e. starting with the outside and working inwards. With this example, the external requirements are that my boss has to think it’s a no-brainer to let me work on X, Y, or Z.

Start by thinking of projects your boss would agree are a no-brainer for you to work on. “Wow, yes, we should have done this yesterday. I would love for you to start working on this asap.”

That’s the reaction you’re looking for. You need that level of visceral enthusiasm for your new job description to get approved.

Then ask yourself, “What about this project (that I already know my boss loves) would I like doing? What chunk of it can I take on? What parts would I be most suited to lead?”

By starting with what you know your boss will like, you can get creative with what parts of those projects you can own.

Frame why this benefits your manager

Once you finally decide what to work on, you have to frame the role in terms of why this benefits the organization.

You have to align what YOU want with what the OTHER PERSON wants. I’m mentioning this point again because this is really the #1 thing that matters. It’s the single point of failure--without this, nothing else matters.

The only reason your boss will say yes is if you align to their goals. So when you put together your pitch, think about how you can blow their minds with helping them reach their goals.

All the rest of the logistics and mechanics--what bullet points belong in the job description, what metrics to measure yourself on, etc--all of those flow from this core concept.

“What can I do that would make my hiring manager’s life easier and better?”

What you can start doing today

The best part: You can start to write your own job description in small ways. It doesn’t have to be formal or official.

You might even want to Trojan Horse the whole idea--the less attention you call to the fact that you’re inventing your own role, the better.

At the end of the day, this is about adding value to your organization. You can add more value by asserting what you can do to better help your manager, your team, and your company.

That’s a win-win situation. They’ll get the best from you. And you’ll get to put your skills and energy towards projects you’re itching to do.

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