When I came across this blog post with the headline "Why Everything You've Been Told About Your Job Is A Lie" it got my attention. And it kept my attention with the opening line, "Your entire working life is a myth." As it turns out, the piece had more substance than sensation, but I think the premise of the post is worth exploring.
He writes that when people go through the interview process, the discussions are all centered around background and experience and how that fits with the job description for a particular position.
Once hired, you get the job, the title, an orientation, some training, and other tools that presumably will help you carry out the functions of your job effectively.
"We’re all working two jobs. As we politely get down to the business of fulfilling the tasks and activities in our primary job descriptions, we incessantly bump up against the real challenges of our 'job within the job.'"
The problem he contends, is that the "job description lies, or at least it only tells part of the story. What the team and organization need from you do not always align with your job description. We’re all working two jobs. As we politely get down to the business of fulfilling the tasks and activities in our primary job descriptions, we incessantly bump up against the real challenges of our 'job within the job.' Your day-to-day tasks and activities are often not the most important things you could be doing. And actually fulfilling your responsibilities can be quite hard when faced with everyday obstacles and unexpected challenges."
Does this sound familiar? How often do you say to yourself at work, "This isn't what I signed up for."
I have a friend who recently took a marketing communications job at a global IT company that wants to become more "consumer facing." He was hired to be a storyteller, and to put a friendly, more approachable face on a successful company that has little brand awareness among the general public.
"I like the company and I like the people but I literally sit in meetings all day," he told me recently over coffee. "I honestly don't know how they expect me to get any actual work done when I am never at my desk. It's all strategy, and memos, and vetting this and that, running it up the flagpole, going to corporate. I constantly get pushback in the form of 'we have never done that here before.' Isn't that the point? Isn't that why I was hired? I'm not sure how to navigate this. I'm frustrated for sure."
Everyone has to discover the "hidden side of work."
Sostrin says everyone has to discover the "hidden side of work," the job within a job he opines most of us have. Perhaps my friend hasn't quite figured that out yet, but he will likely have to if he wants to have success in his new position.
To help with that process, Sostrin says to find the answers to these six questions:
- What single statement best describes your role?
- What tasks and activities absorb most of your time?
- What challenges prevent your best work?
- What single statement reveals your vital purpose to the organization?
- Which of your contributions have the greatest value to the organization?
- What are the hidden challenges of delivering this value?
For hiring managers and staffing pros certainly job descriptions are performance specifications that drive the hiring process and define your success. But I like Sostrin's take that the job description is just the start for those who do the hiring, and those who get hired.
Lucy Kellaway is a writer for the Financial Times of London. In a somewhat depressingly titled post "Most of us don't like our jobs and never will," she writes, "Every week brings another survey telling how occupational dislike rules in offices. Recently, there was a study showing that 77 per cent of British workers felt they had chosen the wrong career. In the United States, a recent report stated that only 19 per cent of workers professed themselves satisfied with their jobs. This business of liking and not liking your work is the biggest gap between the haves and have-nots in the office."
Perhaps if we better understood the "hidden side of our work," and the job within a job Sostrin writes about, our happiness levels might go up. Our value to the companies we work for would likely increase as well.