Looking back at my resume it seems to be a winding path of seemingly disconnected opportunities. I have been an entrepreneur, an executive, an instructor, a designer, a writer, and a lot of in-between roles. I have bootstrapped, worked for VC-funded startups, and been a consultant. A common thread through all of these roles was that in every single instance I wrote my own job description to create a role that did not previously exist.
How it started
It started when I was a kid. When I was ten I had pet doves, and I created a relationship with a magician so I could sell him the babies. When I was 15 I worked as a welder for a boat builder and created a healthy side hustle making aluminum wood-fired hot tub stoves.
As an adult, I adore reading job descriptions. I like to know what jobs are out there and what I might do if I needed a new role. Even so, I always land on a hybrid of the job descriptions I see. Looking through the decades of my adult life, I’ve combined three ingredients to get the jobs I created:
- Relationships: I build connections and community based on respect, which creates curiosity and excitement about what could happen if we collaborated.
- Fulfilling a need: Both my needs at each life stage, but also the needs of the workplaces and customers. Often this isn’t clear immediately. It takes probing and listening and patience to really understand where the gaps are and where my skill set overlaps.
- Confidence. I don’t always feel as confident as I look, but none of these jobs would have gone beyond the “idea” state if I didn’t take proactive steps to make them real. Execution is the secret to this kind of opportunity.
How it’s been going
In my 20s, I created a role as a pre-natal pilates instructor at a physical therapy clinic. I pitched the idea, got my certifications, and built a marketing plan for a not-yet existing program, with the urgency that only my own growing belly and pending due date could provide.
In my 30s, I launched and ran the parenting media outlet Mamalode because at that time I needed honest storytelling about parenthood. It seemed a couple of million other people did too.
In my 40s, I was recruited by a fast-growing VC funded startup called MyVillage, focused on changing the early childcare industry. Once we knew we wanted to work together, we co-created a new executive Chief Community Officer role to make the most of the core skills I had nurtured throughout my entrepreneurial decade: Community building, company culture, and experience.
When creating job descriptions for roles like the above I articulated:
- The unique value I bring
- The desired outcome of the collaboration
- The adaptability I embody because roles inevitably change.
The “why” for companies
You don’t always know what you are missing. But your customers and/or brand fans probably do. That’s why great companies often have a position posted on their site asking us to “tell us what we need” as a way to get resumes (and ideas) from people who truly want to work for that company. Being open to hearing creative concepts from such people may surprise you. And the real “why” is why limit your hiring pool and why cut talent out due to them not fitting into one of the boxes you’ve thought of so far?
The “why” for me
Professionally this approach to my career has been exciting and full of new experiences. Personally it has kept me in a continued growth mindset and on the lookout for opportunities focused on what I can offer. Confidence requires nurturing, and you have to keep looking at yourself clearly, both your shortcomings and your skills. This approach has allowed me to do work I love, constantly learn new things, and never feel like a cog in a machine.
The struggle sometimes is to figure out how I fit in the machine. If I’m not adding value or am distracting from the mission, it is up to me to identify it, change it, or step aside. I have to be open. Which requires me to keep listening, keep changing, and keep putting myself out there.
At the end of the day, I believe I can do the job, even if it doesn’t exist yet.