Q: I was glad to see your columns on the Poynter site. They are a great way to talk about journalism jobs and job-related issues.
I have a situation that I need some help with, but have a hard time putting it out on a discussion board. My job is changing and my boss has yet to write a job description or tell me all the details. He has told me to tell him what I want to get from the job. So, my question is, how do I write a job description and what should be in one?
I see the position as a hybrid between the metro and the copy desks. (I currently work on the copy desk.) It's not clear who I would report to -- the ame in charge of the copy desk, the ame/sunday or the ame/metro -- and I think that issue should be cleared up before the position starts.
So, this is my dilemma: I have a boss who has been talking about doing this job change since I came back from the ACES conference in April, but who has not written the job description and has tossed it back at me. The sketchy outline is all that I have. I'd like to write a job description that meets the company's immediate needs, but also allows me to grow and develop the position into one that has more influence and less gatekeeping than my boss currently sees it having.
A: In some ways, this is an ideal situation.
You are lucky to have a role in describing and defining your job.
You're approaching it in the right way. This description, to work well for the paper and for you, needs to serve the paper's immediate and strategic needs and your own career interests.
Learn what is most important to your editors by asking or by observing. If you can work on the things that are most important to them, you'll be of greater value. If you can learn the skills that will be important in the future, so much the better. As an editor, part of that should no doubt be how well you develop your team or work with other editors.
In my appraisal, my editor weights my different responsibilities. This gives me a clearer set of priorities than a laundry list would have. When I am deciding where to put my attention, the appraisal tells me what is valued most. The trick, always, is to have the things that are most valuable to you be the same things that are most valuable in your position. It sounds like you and your boss are not in full agreement on the gatekeeping issue.
Your best strategy in changing that is to satisfy his need for gatekeeping with other people or a change in the system and to replace your gatekeeping responsibilities with things that he needs even more.
Note: "Ask the Recruiter" is moving to Poynter's new Career Center. The new home is here. Don't forget to change your bookmark.