May 6, 2014

5 Minutes to Discover Your “Job-within-the-Job”


nesting dollYOUR WORKING LIFE is based on a myth. It began when you arrived for your first job interview. After you answered a few questions about your background and experience, the interviewer likely gave you a single job description that described the tasks and functions required by the role you would fill in the organization. From that point on, the myth was firmly set in place. However, anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes on the job knows that our job descriptions only tell part of the story about what we need to do in order to succeed in the world of work.

“Insight to Action”

The hidden path to success at work requires us to identify our “job-within-the-job,” which includes the unspoken work we encounter as we manage constant change, effectively collaborate with difficult people, navigate confusing workplace politics, and get our best work done in an environment of shrinking resources and increasing demands. For both managers and employees, this is the double-reality of work. When we fail to identify the hidden challenges from the “job-within-the-job,” a ferocious cycle that ensues:

  1. We are hired and paid to do a job…
  2. But we only get a partial picture of what is needed to succeed at it…
  3. So we’re on their own to understand the missing part of the picture and to figure out our own path toward success…and
  4. While this unfolds, we are not be rewarded differently if we succeed, but we could still face consequences if they fail to meet the job’s demands.

Considering this impossible dilemma, it is not surprising that 71% of the workforce feels overwhelmed and disengaged.


Rather than discovering your “job-within-the-job” through trial and error over time, you can use a framework of sequential questions to flip the known elements of a standard job description to see the hidden side of work. The 5-minute process enables you to pinpoint the vital purpose, value added contributions, and hidden challenges that, when addressed, can unburden you from the baggage of the double-reality of work. To start, respond to the following questions:

  1. What single statement best describes your role? … What single statement reveals your vital purpose to the organization?
  2. What tasks and activities absorb most of your time? … Which of your contributions have the greatest value to the organization?
  3. What are the common obstacles that prevent your best work? … What are the hidden challenges of staying on purpose and delivering your value?

The first half of each question sequence pertains to the superficial expectations of traditional job descriptions. However, the second half probes deeper to reveal: A) your vital purpose (the reason the organization needs you); B) your greatest value to the team (what concrete skills and contributions advance the company’s top goals); and C) your everyday challenges (the often unseen barriers that you must resolve to stay on purpose and deliver your value).

By taking this first step you begin the important process of disentangling the complexities, headaches, and challenges of work that are often hidden in plain sight. If you need support taking the next step and making the change real, contact us about our coaching programs.

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