How To Evolve Your Own Job And Stay Relevant

It’s dangerous to rely on your job description to tell you what to do, or to wait for your manager to fine-tune your job. It’s much safer, valuable, and satisfying to do it yourself. Here's how.

Your job description gets stale the moment when it is first given to you. Then you need figure out how to evolve it. As we come up on the end of the year, it is a great time to evaluate your role, your company, and the market relative to your job description and your career.

Don’t give this extra work of figuring out how your job needs to evolve to your boss or wait for direction. That is both a danger and a missed opportunity to stand out and contribute more value. Sort it out on your own and make a recommendation.

I have collected some questions that will help you figure out how to evolve your job over time to make sure you are staying relevant and adding enough value to the business.

1. Who uses my work and what do they need most?

  • Who are the consumers of each piece of work that I do?
  • Do they still use it? Do they still need it?
  • Do they pass it on to others? Do those other people have needs I should understand?
  • Can the content I deliver be modified to be more useful or relevant?
  • Can the manner in which I deliver it be improved to be more useful or relevant?
Note: Stop producing work no one cares about. Ask.

I know so many organizations that are over-busy producing reports, analysis, or sales and marketing that no one uses. Don’t burn up your time on things that no one cares about. Do actively learn what they find most useful, and tune what you produce to be more valuable.

2. What business outcomes does my work drive?

  • What is the business outcome that happens as a result of my producing this work?
  • How does my work impact profit?
  • Does my work impact quality, innovation, efficiency, competitiveness, cost reduction, process improvement, sales effectiveness…
  • Can I tune my work to create a better or different business outcome?
Note: If you can’t connect your work to a business outcome, maybe it doesn’t need to be done.

You need to stay educated on the most important outcomes the business is driving and stay connected with them. Even if you are a cost center providing an internal service, you need to find ways to improve efficiency or usefulness.

3. What does my work cost?

  • How much does it cost the company for me to do this work?
  • Can it be done for less?
  • What are the downstream costs of the things that I do?
  • Who else does my work cause work or costs for?
  • Is there a way to make my work more efficient for others?
Note Improve the outcomes your work causes, don’t just deliver the work.

Always be looking for and finding ways to take cost out. If you produce a 50-page document quarterly, maybe the right, improved 20-page document would be even better. It would be hard to find someone who didn’t prefer the shorter version!

If you do things manually or in a chaotic reactive mode, how many people are impacted by this? How can you create a process to streamline the work, make it less complicated, and require fewer touchpoints, questions, or follow-ups?

4. What has changed?

  • What has changed in the market since I started this job?
  • What has changed in our customers’ business since I started this job?
  • What has changed in our competitors’ business since I started this job?
  • What has changed inside our company since I started this job?
  • Do these changes require a change in the way my job is done?
Note: If you are not evolving your job, you will no longer be qualified when the market and business changes.

Or, you will be doing the wrong job, and your job will get eliminated. Be the one to recommend changing your job to meet the evolving business needs.

5. Where do you see growth and ability to scale

  • How much has the company grown since I started this job?
  • How much does the company plan to grow in the future?
  • What still works in the way I do my job if the company is much bigger?
  • Which things about how I do my job don’t work if the company is bigger?
Note: When companies get bigger, all the jobs change.

You can’t keep using the same way of working. It doesn’t scale. You can be the one to build a new process that will scale, or you can be the one who gets pushed aside by someone with experience at a bigger company.

6. How can I help others?

  • What can I do to communicate better?
  • How can I share more knowledge?
  • How can I teach someone to be more effective?
  • How can I help someone step into a bigger role?
  • How can I help someone believe that something bigger is possible for them?
Note: If you are not helping others, you are not adding enough value.

Another upside: If you are feeling unsatisfied about being in a corporate role that doesn’t make enough difference in the world, help someone. It feels meaningful--when you help someone else, you change the world for that person.

Don’t wait. I see a lot of people thinking that answering these questions is not part of their job. They wait for others to answer them, and await new instructions from their manager.

It’s dangerous to rely on your job description to tell you what to do, or to wait for your manager to fine-tune your job along the way. It’s much safer, more valuable to your company, and more satisfying when you do it yourself.

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--Patty Azzarello is an executive, best-selling author, speaker and business advisor to CEOs. She became the youngest general manager at HP at the age of 33, ran a billion-dollar software business at 35, and became a CEO for the first time at 38 (all without turning into a self-centered, miserable jerk). You can find Patty at www.AzzarelloGroup.com, follow her on Twitter or Facebook, or read her book RISE…3 Practical Steps for Advancing Your Career, Standing Out as a Leader, AND Liking Your Life.

[Image: Flickr user Andrew Wong]

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