3 good reasons to fix your job description now

You see a job posting. A colleague refers you. A headhunter calls you. One way or another you end up reviewing a job description and decide, “yes, I can do this.” You check out the company—it looks good. A few interviews later: you’re hired.

Fast forward to now. Can you even remember what the job description said? Once settled in, day-to-day job demands were unceasing, and many factors both internal and external have acted over time to shape your thoughts, your work and your security program.

Opportunities to think strategically and critically, and to take a long-term look at things both forward and back, are much rarer these days due to the constant bombardment of email, text, instant messages and phone calls.

One value of a job description review is that it provides a point from which to elevate oneself up to a high-level view of things, with consequent realizations and insights that can benefit you and your security program.

Here are three very good reasons to take a good look at that original job description now, each one with a simple but enlightening step to help you benefit from what you see in your review:

Note: If your responsibilities include safety as well as security, then read "security and safety" where just security is mentioned in this article.

1). Perspective. Taking a close look at that original job description will call to mind the original circumstances and the thoughts and ideas you had at the time. You’ll see how much has been accomplished (or not), and how hard or easy it was to do certain things.

You’ll see how the various aspects of the resource picture have changed: budgets, personnel, key stakeholders, and executive support. You’ll see how the demands on you and your department have changed, and what that likely portends for the future. It’s an enlightening exercise to re-examine the actual starting point, and compare that to today’s picture.

  • What are the key changes that have taken place (good or bad) for you, your department and the organization relating to its security and your position in it?
  • Write them down and explain their impacts and relevance to security. What were the security strengths and weaknesses back then, for you in your new position, for your security department, and for your organizations risk profile and risk awareness? Contrast that with current strengths and weaknesses.

2). Reality. It’s likely your job description was written by someone with less knowledge of the organization’s actual security needs than what you have now. Amazingly, one practitioner discovered that 50 percent of the job description text was completely irrelevant!

But what’s more common is to find that the description is very generic and not specifically tuned to the organization, and is task- and responsibility-oriented, written as if security is a static function that just needs someone to “run things”. In truth, the real picture is very dynamic and usually requires active leadership in many more directions than the job description conveys. Risk orientation is often minimal or absent.

  • Given where things stand right now, what kind of job description would it take to accurately capture what has unfolded since then? It’s an enlightening exercise to examine the actual starting point, and craft a realistically accurate job description that if fulfilled would take you, your department, and your organization’s security profile to where they are now.

3). Vision. However much things have changed since “day one”, they are likely to change even more going forward. Now is the time to clarify that vision, starting with the most key element of your security program—you!

  • What is your vision for how things should be a year from now? Put that in writing and then craft a job description that if fulfilled would bring you, your department, and your organization’s security profile to it can and should be a year from now.

Immediate Actions

Now you are ready to take a rarely done yet simple and powerful step in building the support and strengthening the relationships that your vision depends upon.

  • For each of your security personnel, write a personal note letting them know that you have just informally reviewed the progress of security in the time since you took your position, and thanking them for the things they have done to contribute. It is critically important that these comments are specific and not general or vague. First, list the security strengths identified in exercise 1 to which they have contributed, and acknowledge the ways in which they have grown stronger in their own job position if that’s been the case. Next, let them know that you’ll be counting on them to help you with one or more aspects of achieving the vision, which you should specifically mention, and that you’ll discuss this more with them in the near future.
  • For the senior security stakeholders and any dotted-line reports, consider their role in progress of security over the past year or two (or whatever time period you want to reference), and thank them for their support in whatever way is appropriate, specifically mentioning one or more the things that have been accomplished. Let them know about a few of the things that you want to accomplish going forward, and that you’ll welcome any feedback from them on those topics.
  • For your immediate superior, consider sharing some or all of the results of the three exercises that you did, at the very least sharing the updated job description that fits the current vision. Discuss updating the HR records in this regard.

In case you have been asking or considering asking for a raise—keep that a separate subject. If you are asked about it, you can say that you are still in the midst of your thinking along this line, and of course the job description review is evidence of that.

Write a personal note to your immediate superior, or if your relationship is close enough that it’s appropriate—make notes for yourself and present the thoughts in person. The important thing is to identify the help and support that has contributed to specific improvements that you want to highlight, again being specific and not general or vague. Share your thoughts about aspects of the vision that you specifically would like support for, and identify them as topics for upcoming discussion.

Feedback

The key idea here is to plant seeds for future discussions, not to engage in detailed presentations right now. After all, you have just started thinking about these topics. But initiating communication often prompts others to have thoughts of their own. If others want to discuss things in detail, it may be best to use the time to hear what their thoughts, concerns or desires are—rather than going into a detailed discussion that you are not yet prepared for. Getting feedback when it's available is critically important, and this step often prompts such feedback without having to directly ask for it.

Priority

If you have any back-off on performing these exercises, take that as an indicator that you are overdue for such high-level thinking. Make it a high priority to reserve some time slots for these exercises.

These three exercises are often best done by going over them a number of times, where you put aside your “first pass” at them, and come back in a few days to update them based upon your subsequent thinking. For sure once you get started, some new “mental wheels” will be turning! Sometimes a few stalled wheels come to life again, and you’ll have a chance to think the thoughts through completely.

Regardless of how easy or hard it may seem to get started on these exercises, consider the consequences of going forward for the next year without having sufficiently considered your position. That’s why doing them should be a high priority.

A Note on Job Security

There are a number of ways that reviewing and fixing your job description can improve your job security.

  • You set yourself apart from many other managers and executives in a very positive way.
  • You show that you are keeping yourself and your department current with your organization’s needs.
  • By taking the relationship-building steps, you make other people more aware of your highly responsible attitude and interest in collaboration.
  • If your job description becomes part of your performance review, you will be one individual whose performance exactly matches or maybe exceeds your job description.
  • You show that you are exactly the kind of individual (a change-minded person with initiative) that is needed during and after times of organizational stress and change.

If you are among the fortunate few who already perform a job review exercise annually, be sure to add the relationship building elements described above. They are sure to open conversational doors that have been previously closed for no real reason.

By this point you are likely to already be having many ideas about this. Just follow through and you will have a sound and confident start for the coming period ahead!

About the AuthorRay Bernard, PSP, CHS-III is the principal consultant for Ray Bernard Consulting Services (RBCS), a firm that provides security consulting services for public and private facilities. For more information about Ray Bernard and RBCS go to www.go-rbcs.com or call 949-831-6788. Mr. Bernard is also a member of the Content Expert Faculty of the Security Executive Council. Follow Ray on Twitter: @RayBernardRBCS.  

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