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 person.

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 easier".

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 "delegating up".

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 solution.

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"!