Job Seeking Advice: Your #1 Job Responsibility
By: Nick Thomas
Unless you're just about to begin your career, you're almost
certainly familiar with a "job description" which consists of one or more
pages listing your job title and a dozen or more of your responsibilities.
Job descriptions exist because employees are very expensive, so smart
hiring decisions and human resources policies are pivotal factors in
companies being profitable rather than bankrupt.
This means that few managers will be able to secure approval to hire an
employee without ample justification. It isn't enough to say "I really need
another person in my department". Instead, any manager looking to hire
additional staff has to spell out exactly why he has a specific need for
That's why job descriptions tend to be lengthy: a job description with only
three or four responsibilities won't demonstrate nearly as much "need" as
one with 15 or 20 responsibilities. That leads to padding, of course, since
the executives at the top will say "yes" only to those managers who seem to
have the greatest need for new staff.
So the first three or four listed responsibilities will be the main ones.
But the next 10 or 15 will be mostly "filler" items designed to sound
impressive and important while remaining short on specifics.
And the last responsibility will be a catch-all: "Any other duties assigned
by management". (That way, you won't be able to point to your job
description to get out of certain tasks you don't want to do, or else seek
a promotion and a raise as a reward for the "new responsibilities" that
your manager eventually tries to add to your workload.)
But what's more interesting about job descriptions is what isn't in them.
Regardless of what you actually do, there are several important (but
unstated) responsibilities that make the difference between just getting by
and getting promoted.
No matter what your job, your #1 responsibility is to "Make your boss's job
That same dynamic holds true all the way up the corporate ladder. Your
boss's #1 job is to make his or her boss's job easier. And so on . all the
way to the top. That seems simple enough, but most employees don't actually
practice this when they're at the workplace. So let's look more closely at
how to make this concept work for you.
When your boss gives you work to do, that's called "delegating". It makes
your boss's job easier since it takes work off his (or her) desk by moving
it to your desk instead.
But most employees sabotage their chances for upward progression by sending
work in the opposite direction right back to their boss. That's called
Have you ever encountered a problem in the workplace with a client or a
supplier and asked your boss "How should I handle this?" If so, that's
delegating up because you're giving the problem to your boss to solve.
Should you solve it on your own? If it's a minor problem, yes.
But if it's a major problem or if it has the potential to escalate into a
major problem, then your boss will want to be aware of what's going on and
perhaps also make the final decision.
There's a more efficient way of handling problems, though. Do the thinking
for your boss and come up with what you believe to be the best solution.
Then sit down with your boss, give a brief summary of the problem - and
your proposed solution - and then ask your boss whether he or she would
prefer a different solution.
Nine times out of ten, your solution will be a good one and your boss will
tell you to proceed accordingly. And the tenth time, your boss will
instruct you to handle it in a different manner and give you an alternative
This means that over time, this problem-solving approach will reduce your
upward delegation by 90% while still keeping your boss in the loop in your
area of the company. And that's something that your boss will notice - and
appreciate - no matter what your job.
A happy boss who knows you can solve problems and communicate solutions
well is a boss who will be looking to promote you so you can make his or
her job even easier. After all, the more authority you have, the more
upward delegation you can slash by 90%. That means good things will happen
for you and your career if you keep up the good work.
By the way, your résumé or CV can benefit from the same principle. When
marketing yourself to prospective employers, does your résumé or CV
demonstrate how you've made your boss' life easier? Your clients' lives?
Your customers' lives?
Demonstrating that you provide real and tangible benefits is one of the
major keys to a great résumé or CV. In fact, you could say that it's your
résumé's or CV's #1 responsibility to explain how you can "Make your next
boss's job easier"!