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How important is your job description? And is it more important BEFORE you take a new job than after you start?

I was working with a senior executive on a career strategy change. After an initial interview with a potential employer, the executive had perceptions about the new job's responsibilities, sphere of influence, and reporting relationships to the CEO and the department team.

The perceptions formed via conversations; nothing was in writing. In a subsequent conversation, however, the CEO unveiled other organizational and position changes underway. Following this second conversation, the new job's responsibilities and reporting relationships seemed different than originally portrayed - different enough, in fact, to make the new position unattractive.

Question-Marks

How Important Is a Job Description to Your Career Change Strategy?

At that point the question was whether the next move should involve demanding a written job description before confirming acceptance of the new position. The thinking was that forcing the CEO's hand about a job description would clear up all questions.

Discussing the concerns, it was clear there were two BIG factors necessary for success up in the air. Each issue involved a reporting relationship:

  • Did the new position report to the CEO or not?
  • Would a key supporting capability within the organization report up through the new position or not?

Answers to these two questions were sufficient to know whether the new position could create the type of impact the CEO SAID he wanted it to have.

While a written job description would typically address these questions, it wouldn't be a guarantee of the new job being exactly as promised. That understanding would come from having a strong sense the CEO does what he says. If there was an underlying uncertainty about whether the CEO says one thing to please someone yet actually do something else, a job description wasn't going to address that.

The best strategy was having another conversation with the CEO about the two open questions. This strategy positioned the job seeker as a legitimate senior level executive that didn't need everything spelled out to make a decision.

The conversation answered the two questions. Yes, the position definitely reported to the CEO, and the important function within the organization would report to the new position.

Questions answered and the best career strategy change was decided, all without a written job description.

The conversation, however, provided greater assurance the CEO will follow through on what he says. And at a senior level such as this, knowing you can trust someone is typically more important than spelling out a bunch of job duties in a job description! – Mike Brown

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