So you’ve found a great company to work for, congratulations! Sometimes we are fortunate enough that our dream job already exists at our company, however, for most of us it isn’t an option to sit back and wait for opportunities.
Many of you are working at startups where roles are often undefined and resources are scarce or you are in an established company where job responsibilities can be rigid and restrictive. I’ve worked at both and have used these 7 steps to create new roles that I genuinely loved to do - and delivered significant value to the companies I worked for at the same time.
1. Know yourself - Aristotle said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”, Drake also thinks it’s pretty important, so let’s start here. Most people don’t know what their dream job is, or even what makes them feel fulfilled - it’s very easy to just keep running without stopping to think about these things. Book an hour in your calendar without distractions and make a list of at least 5 things you love doing at work, things that you can’t stand doing and things that you’d love to learn or would challenge you. What are the common themes? You now have a shortlist for identifying opportunities and avoiding red flags.
Take some time to get to know yourself.
2. Prepare to do extra work - There is no such thing as a free lunch, trust me I would have figured that one out by now. This means that you’ll need to deliver on your existing responsibilities while you’re working on building your new dream job. There is nothing that will earn confidence from senior leadership when pitching a new project or strategy more than being a top performer or expert in your current role.
3. Get to know the business - When you’re looking to create a new role within a company you need to become an expert in the objectives and goals of the company and each team within it - you must be able to speak their language and have a deep empathy for what motivates them. How can you help the company avoid wasting time by getting to ‘goal’ X times faster? What risks to achieving X objectives have you identified? What happens if this role doesn’t get created and who does it impact? These are they types of questions you want to ask.
Speak their language and have a deep empathy for what motivates them.
4. Ask for grenades - In order for you to identify opportunities for your dream job you need to ask people for grenades you can jump on. In other words, ask your colleagues again and again ‘What is your biggest challenge at the moment?’ ‘How can I help you out?’ have a genuine interest in their pain points - because this is where you can create innovative new solutions.
5. Show me the money - By now you should have identified some great challenges and opportunities across the business, weigh these options for which best fits the criteria you have identified in step 1 while making sure that you can also have a significant measurable impact over time, you want your dream job to be sustainable after all!
6. Identify Stakeholders - Now you have a loose plan, you need to make a list of all of the people that your new role could impact - these are the people that will make sure it is created. Speak to both senior and junior members of staff about your thoughts and the rationale, gather their feedback and have a deep empathy for their challenges. In these conversations, you should do 10% talking and 90% listening. Try to not be defensive if they have a different point of view, a new viewpoint will help you avoid roadblocks you didn’t know were there, instead dig deeper to fully understand their position.
Inform each person that you’re gathering feedback at this stage and will come back to them with some common themes and next steps - they are now your collaborators, categorise them into ‘collaborator team’, ‘decision makers’ and ‘informed persons’ based on how involved they will be.
Do 10% talking and 90% listening.
Collaborate - You now need to gain agreement to begin this new initiative from the organizational decision makers, and an ongoing commitment dependent on results - you’ll need a hypothesis and goals to do this, see the end of this step.
The way that you interact with your project collaborators will define the success of your new initiative. Keep in regular contact with everyone you are working with, for your ‘team’ collaborators you may opt for a daily stand-up to discuss progress, for ‘decision makers’ and ‘informed persons’ you may just invite them to bi-weekly retrospectives and keep them updated by email. Do not drop the ball on this regular communication, if everyone feels invested they will instinctively want you to succeed.
Work with your team collaborators to define a hypothesis and set SMART goals. It could look something like:
The challenge you have identified
How you plan to resolve/improve it
What impact this will have on the business (SHOW ME THE MONEY)
Your short term and long term plans for this
Your asks (resources, time to work on it, assistance from other teams etc.)
7. Stand and deliver - Congratulations! You’ve successfully launched a challenging new initiative in your organization. You should bring all of your collaborators together to present the results of the team’s work, share learning and hold a final retrospective. Hopefully, this means that you have seen some fantastic results and you company has decided to dedicate resources to your new initiative full time. If you do not see the results that you expected it is just as important to present them, everyone will respect your fearlessness and appreciate the transparency.
In the best case, you have created your dream job, in the worst case you have gained a ton of new skills, strengthened your network, demonstrated strong leadership qualities and shown that you can communicate effectively - you’ll find it even easier to get support for that next idea!
I hope you can use these steps to build a job that makes you feel fulfilled and challenged in your organization, let me know how you get on!