Job Descriptions

I hope you all are staying well, safe and healthy!

I recently went through an exercise with the team at Entrepreneurship at Cornell.  We have all been working remotely (obviously), and I wanted to get a very good read on how each team member viewed his/her primary contributions to our program.  So I went back to basics and asked each team member to send a list of bullet points describing their material functional duties.  Importantly, I only asked for bullet points (knowing that sometimes it is hard to be concise) and material duties (so things that are ongoing and not one-off small tasks).  I gave examples to the team for me and our assistant director.  Here was my list:

  • Manage the Governing Board, including meeting preparation
  • Manage the Advisory Council, including meeting preparation
  • Heavily involved in all aspects of Eclectic Convergence speaker selection, planning and hosting the event
  • Heavily involved in all aspects of Celebration planning and hosting
  • Represent EaC with central administration (particularly Provost, AAD, VP of Research, VP of HR and VP of Communications)
  • Heavily involved in all aspects of EaC budget setting and planning; responsible for budget results
  • Heavily involved in all aspects of fund raising for EaC (including corporate sponsor interface)
  • Heavily involved in the Student Business of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year and Beck Fellows selection
  • Chair of eLab, responsible for budget
  • Represent EaC on various Cornell related boards (for example, McGovern, Praxis)
  • Responsible for hosting faculty/staff lunches
  • Responsible for EaC performance and staff
  • Interface directly with Student Agencies on eHub and other matters
  • Supervise the EaC team

I got back responses from the team, and we will review this week as a group at our staff meeting so that everyone knows what everyone else perceives as their primary functional duties.  I am hoping that the discussion will lead to a few edits.

The exercise got me thinking about job descriptions. I have NEVER been a huge fan of them. In fact, I think that job descriptions are most (perhaps only) useful in the initial hiring process. Beyond that they can serve to stifle innovation, creativity and growth. I would hope that people would want to continually find new things to do at work – things that interest them, things that advance the “office agenda”, things that engage others, etc.  Things that might not fit into their job description.  I hope to never hear “that is not in my job description” :).  Sure, there are only so many hours in a work day, but job evolution is part of what makes going to work enjoyable.

Doing the bullet point exercise periodically (perhaps yearly) could be a great way to keep things fresh and encourage innovation at work. The bullets are like a “live” job description.  Never gets stale!

Finally getting some spring weather in Ithaca! Have a great week.