Not in my job description

This seemingly innocent, possibly factual statement of “not in my job description” gets my blood boiling. Without going into the details of who’s and when’s let’s just say I’ve been hearing this more and more from people as they complain about their jobs. Anyone who has ever worked with me has certainly heard me get on my soapbox and give the same speech:

“I will never ask you to do something I haven’t done a dozen times myself”

I’ve had a lot of great influences and mentors over the years but in this case two very specific people shaped my perspective on this matter. First is Seth, my first real boss. It was at his tech startup where I cut my teeth, I did everything in that job and I mean everything! I was hired as a “juniour research assistant”. For sure I did some “research” but I also did QA testing, documentation, website design, coding, reporting, purchased hardware, setup networks, bought groceries for the kitchen, got coffee when we ran out, helped setup offices, burned & packaged CDs, helped design logos and booths for trade shows, stayed up all night setting up for trade shows, and that was all well before I ever become an even remotely competent developer and started to focus on that (mostly but never exclusively). Sometimes I was told, sometimes I was asked, mostly I did whatever needed to be done.

The other is my uncle Mike who owns a couple of pet stores. I never “officially” worked for him and so who knows what my title would have been if I had, probably “whatever I tell you”. Here’s a guy who owns the place, is quite literally the boss, however he’s breaking down delivery boxes, stocking shelves, cleaning cages, doing electrical work, doing trade shows, running around picking up supplies, checking in with breeders, picking up animals, running the till, taking sick animals home and nursing them to health. When I would help out on weekends and during the summer for some extra cash I would do whatever needed to be done and Mike would be right there in the middle of it with me.

Even today, I’m a senior member of the team, I am occasionally privileged to partake in high level strategic meetings which is always exciting. However if we are having such a meeting with guests coming in and there’s a lack of coffee or snacks? You bet I’ll pick some up on my way in. When I hear of some data the team could use, sure I could easily say “not my job”, but if I happen to know where to get it and how to process it then it is my duty to get it done. Does the team need someone to cover at an event or dive into some technology to help their customer and I’m free and or able to do so? Then why wouldn’t I?

What’s my point?

It drives me nuts when people complain that a task they were asked to do isn’t in their job description. I’ll let you in on a little known secret but a very common trait in successful people is that they do whatever it takes because that’s the right thing to do, and it’s likely the very thing that needs to be done!

My very simple philosophy is this, there is no job too little or too great. Or put another way there is no job beneath me and no job that I can’t rise to the occasion to do. If you ever catch me complaining otherwise kindly remind me of my hypocrisy!

Why does this matter?

Look I’m not saying sometimes the work doesn’t suck, often is can and does, It can even distract you from your day to day work, maybe resulting in some overtime. But at the end of the day almost everything I’ve been recognized for, rewarded for, promoted for or simply did well, wasn’t always in my “job description”.


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