Be Ready, Willing, and Able to Work Outside Your Job Description

In the current jobs landscape –  brought on because of the recent employment crisis – employees at many companies are being asked to take on tasks that have little to do with their job descriptions.  This could be a temporary stop-gap, but career experts think that even when the economy does get back on its feet, this trend is here to stay as companies strive to make the workplace more efficient.  The days of the well-defined specialist could be giving way to those of the generalist with  a wider range of skills.  

These new multi-tasking situations  – “superjobs” – improve the employee’s skill set through “stretch experiences.”  The assertion is that learning and change are most likely to occur when there is a mismatch between an individual’s current knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics  and the job requirements (i.e., the employee is ‘stretched’). 

A stetch experience could be something like an account helping out with customer service, a research librarian maintaining a blog on health issues, an IT specialist monitoring the company’s  Twitter account to answer techincal questions and market the company’s services, or any number of crossed-up everyday tasks.  And with the constant advances in technology, many employees will be asked to go outside their comfort zones and relate to customers in  whole new media – blogging, tweeting, and podcasting. The quickening pace of change demands more flexibility from everyone.

The way I see it, the more skills you have, and the more diversified you are, the more valuable you are to your employer.  Take advantage of any staff training opportunities you can, even if they are in totally different areas than your everyday job.  The more you can do, the more you will know about the company as a whole.  And the more you know about how the company runs, the more likely you will be to possibly manage that company someday, or to run your own business should that opportunity arise.  Also keep in mind that you are building skills for your personal resume to position yourself for the next promotion or the next  desirable job that comes along.

Perhaps management consultant Rich Moran, whose clients have included Apple and AT&T, says it best:   “Job descriptions are written in sand, and the wind is blowing.”

If you are interested in developing your career or learning about job descriptions and diversity, please visit our Jobs and Careers Neighborhood next to the Reference Room in the Library.  We have a great collection of books for you to check out.  Or, visit our virtual Jobs and Careers Neighborhood for online information.

Terry is the business librarian. You can email her ( your questions or schedule a one-on-one session to discuss business needs, from market research to competitor analysis. She also coordinates with community partners to host small business and personal finance events at the library. Terry has an MBA and an MLS.