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Job Descriptions vs. Job Realities

Published 5/8/2017

In today's episode, I talk about some differences between a typical job description versus realities you may actually experience.

Today's episode is sponsored by Dolby. One of the most important things you can do for your application is ensure that the quality of your audio is strong. You already know Dolby and sound quality go hand-in-hand. Check out how Dolby can help you at spec.fm/dolby.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What is the difference between your job and your job description? That's what we're going to talk about on today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. My hope on this show is to coach you through some of the hardest parts of your career. The questions that you have that are seemingly unanswerable. My hope is to guide you towards finding good answers for those questions. Some questions don't have good answers. Some questions really only are answered by more questions. Some questions have a thousand good answers. And really picking one is the ultimate goal, right? In today's episode, really we're asking a question to get you to think about your job, not from your own perspective, but from kind of a zoomed out perspective. This is something we do often on the show. We try to take the big picture and apply that big picture to how we react or how we act in the workplace. And this simple distinction is going to help you in so many scenarios. The distinction between your job description, right? The thing that you read on LinkedIn or on hired or whatever hiring ad that you read and applied to, there's the job description. And then there's the actual job, the things that you actually really have to do on a day-to-day basis. And we're going to talk about the difference between these two things in today's episode of Developer Tea. But before we jump into the specifics, I want to have kind of a high level conversation about the job market and about developer pride. This is something that is, you know, this could go in our Poison Developer Poison series, a discussion about developer pride. For a while now, developers have been in high demand. And what this means is a lot of our jobs, we have a little bit more control over a lot of the specifics of our job. So much of the freedom of being a developer comes from the fact that your skills are in high demand and they will remain in high demand. So that's not going away any time soon. But also because your skills are largely transferable, right? We have an ecosystem that supports you moving from one employer to another. And a lot of the stuff that you did at the previous employer, that knowledge that you bring over is still valuable. But we have to remain very clear about the job market. This is something that I hold as a value on Developer Teathat I believe can really help you in your job search. When you are searching for a job, your potential employer does not owe you money. Your potential employer does not owe you a job offer. Your potential employer only owes you respect, right? They respect you as a person. You have rights that they cannot in fringe on. But they don't owe you money, right? They don't owe you any benefits. It is your opportunity as a prospective worker to explain the value that you're going to provide to the business. If we can reconfigure our mindset out of this mentality of because I had these skills, then a potential employer is compelled to hire me or they're compelled to offer me all this long list of benefits, or they're compelled to provide an atmosphere that's going to draw me. It's going to draw the talent out. The potential employer is not compelled to do anything that they haven't agreed to do. I also want to be very clear that I don't believe that benefits are bad thing. I think that good employers provide good pay. Good employers provide good benefits. Good employers understand that good pay and good benefits are two of a long list of things that attract talented people, that attract motivated and committed people. But I don't want you as listeners of Developer Tea. And really, I don't want any Developer To get this confused that somehow we come in kind of writing the rules of the job, that we come in writing the specifics of what we are going to do and how much we are going to be paid. This is something that you can look for jobs that meet your requirements. You can search for a job that meets your list of requirements. You may have very specific requirements, maybe you want to work a certain number of hours remotely or you want a certain number of flex vacation days. This is how you want to design your life. But understand that as you go through the search that it's not your employer's responsibility necessarily to meet those demands. Some employers may choose to meet those demands. That's not off the table. That's perfectly fine to do. And especially if you are a talented developer and they really want you on their team, they may come to your side a little bit. But as you go into an interview, I want you to configure your mindset, understanding that that company, whoever you are interviewing with, that they are the ones who decide how much they are willing to pay you to do a certain amount of work. Not ultimately you also have the freedom to not work anywhere that you don't want to work. The job market for developers is open enough and there are enough options out there that you don't have to work or you don't want to work. You do not have to take a job with a low paying, overworking culture. That's not required of you. But you also cannot come into that culture. You can't come into that company and demand that they change their ways. That's not how this works. Now can you come in and influence a culture? Can you come in and influence the pay scale? Influence the quality of a product such that the company is able to pay their employers well. Absolutely. You should come in with the mindset that you're going to work with people and create a good thing and create a positive culture. Create a culture that appreciates the facts that people need rest, that people need time away from work as much as they need time at work. But the simple principle at play here, the thing that we need to remember as workers, as people who are employed to do a job, whether you're employed by a client or you're employed by your company, the person holding the money is the person who decides what they will do with that money. This does not mean that somebody can tell you they're going to pay you one thing and then change the game on you after you've already done the work. That's absolutely not what we're talking about here. We aren't talking about switching expectations, we aren't talking about being manipulative or changing your expectations, promising you one thing and then giving you another thing. That's not what we're talking about here. We're simply talking about what people choose to do with their money. Hopefully, this comes pretty obvious to you. If it doesn't, then this is something that we learn over time and it becomes reinforced over and over when we work with clients, for example, who are unable to pay a certain amount of money for something that we will deliver for that amount of money, we have to decide what to do in those scenarios. We cannot compel the client to pay something that they are unwilling to pay. In the same way, you can't compel a company to pay you a salary higher than they are willing to pay. They own the money, they choose what they do with it. This is how a free market works. As a result of this, a lot of the discussion that you'll hear on this podcast and on other podcasts about how to get a raise or how to influence your boss in such a way that they will give you a raise. All of that is dependent on your boss's decision at the end of the day. If your boss can't make the decision to give you more money, then there's no number of podcasts that you can listen to, no amount of advice that is going to be able to help you get a raise in that scenario. Very simple principle at work. This is going to inform the way that we think about our jobs versus our job descriptions. We're going to talk about that differentiation. As soon as we get back from this quick sponsor break, today's episode is sponsored by Dolby. Dolby, you was one of those names that you have heard probably since you were very young. At least I have. And I associate it immediately with high quality audio. Now, we've come to take it for granted that audio should be of a good quality, right? But you may not realize this as a developer. You can create Dolby level quality, Dolby surround quality sound in the browser. This is brand new technology and it's going to increase the immersion in your applications. Sometimes it doesn't mean that you need new audio assets. Actually, what it means is that you need to use a different audio codec, specifically one that Dolby provides for free in the browser. Asset encoding is easily accomplished with tools you already use, such as Adobe Audition or of course, their online encoding utility. It's totally free for you as a developer. Again, this is brand news. You're getting in on the ground floor. You can differentiate your application, especially your web app. If you can tell your users that they have surround sound quality in your web application, you will be differentiating yourself from the crowd. Go and check it out. Spekt out of them. Slash Dolby. Once again, this is HTML5 apps. You web developers, you should pay attention to this. Again, it's free for you. And it's available on pretty much every device now has at least one browser that supports surround sound. So when you check it out, Spekt out of them. Slash Dolby. Thank you again to Dolby for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about the difference between job descriptions and jobs in today's episode of Developer Tea. I have four differentiators between job descriptions and jobs, four differentiators. And you don't need to write these down. This is really just a discussion. And you can remember the differences here. It really is just about understanding the differences between someone who comes into a job trying to write all the rules for themselves and someone who comes in with the right attitude and is basically on a trajectory once again up and to the right. That's what we want to do on the show is point you in the direction to help you go up and to the right. So we're going to talk about those differences. The first one is job descriptions, outline requirements, right? But jobs have changing requirements. If you think about a job description is a list of technologies and maybe attributes, personal attributes that the ideal candidate, so to speak, that they have in their toolbox. But when you get to the actual job, in most jobs at least, especially in consulting work, right, and in firm work and agency work, those job requirements now are shifting. You're going to have to learn how to deal with different types of people. You're going to have different co-workers. You're going to have different tools next year what was relevant last year is going to be ancient, right? So many changing dynamic things happening in your job. And so a job description is the snapshot in time. It's a snapshot in time of requirements for a job. But an actual job has changing dynamic requirements, right? And number two, job descriptions often weigh everything on them equally, but a real job may be heavily unbalanced. I think about it again. If you're looking at that snapshot of requirements that we talked about, that has everything kind of listed out one by one. And you may have the illusion that you're going to focus on each of those things one by one equally. But in reality, in the job, you may be spending 99% of your time working with one of the five or six or ten technologies that were listed on your job description. Preparing that with our previous assertion that job requirements are going to change, it's possible that you're not even going to focus on any of that technology once things have changed. So the real job may be heavily unbalanced. You may spend all of your time in the first year or in the third year doing front-end technology, doing front-end development, even though you were hired to do front-end and back-end. Or maybe you were even hired to be a back-end developer. The requirements of the business have changed, and thus the things that the business is willing to pay for have changed. And therefore, either you have to be adaptable to the market or you have to find a different job. Now that's not a great reality. That's not something that any of us necessarily are desiring. We don't really want to have to adapt away from a job description that we liked. It's not desirable to start a job being a back-end developer and expecting to continue growing that skill set and then suddenly have to switch to front-end development. But again, we have the freedom to change jobs if the job requirements ask us to do something that we don't want to do anymore. If you want to continue being a back-end developer, but that company doesn't have the money to fund your desire to be a back-end developer, you always have the option of going to a different company. Of course, you also have the option of staying around, and it may be that in the future, those funds are replaced. Things come back into balance. A job is highly dynamic. You can't expect the job to be as static as the job description. Number three, job descriptions. They make a best guess as to what will be valuable, but the job demands what will be valuable. Let's think about that for a second. The job description is trying to forecast in one way or another. It's trying to forecast what technologies we need you as a developer or what characteristics we need you as a developer to have coming in. As we see a little bit into the future based on our most recent past. We're trying to forecast that the things that we've been making money doing, we can continue making money doing. Here is a list of the technologies that we've made money utilizing. In the short-term future, we need to continue making money. We have more demand, and we need another developer who is familiar with these technologies. In the scenario, you have a list of technologies that you are familiar with and you come into the job and suddenly the market shifts. This wasn't something that the company necessarily could have predicted, or at least they didn't predict it with your job description. But because there is no more money, as we've already said, there's no more money to continue funding those particular technologies. Because of this market shift, the job will now demand something different. Even though the job description said one thing, the job itself, this is the difference, the job for you to continue being employed, for you to continue being paid, the job requires that you do something different because the market requires that you do something different. And finally, number four, job descriptions attempt to describe a job, but a job does not attempt to hold true to its description. This is probably the most fluid of these four, but a job doesn't have to hold to its description. And again, this one's probably the most fluid and the most controversial of these four, because there are plenty of reasons why we as developers would prefer for our jobs to maintain whatever it is that we were hired to do. We were given a job because we have these skills. And at the time that we were hired, we were told that the value that we can produce for the company is based on those skills. But the reality is that the job description was simply trying to describe what those skills would be, but the job itself, as we've already discussed, because the job demands what will be valuable, the job doesn't have to hold true to that description. The job, the only thing the job has to do is continue making money. That's the only true 100% requirement. Now that sounds cold or it may sound a little bit short-sighted, but if we make no assumptions about the personalities of the people involved, if we make no assumptions about the intentions of the people involved, the only thing that requires a job to continue being viable is funding. Now if you layer your values on top of this, if you also have ethical and cultural and moral guidelines that you want to follow, as a worker and as an employer, it's likely that you have these things, then there are certain pieces of a job description that you are unwilling to change. For example, if your job description is treated somewhat like a contract, if you sign a paper saying these are the things that I'm going to do in this job, and then those things significantly change, well now you have a discussion about mismatch between expectations and reality. If you, for example, sign on for a part-time position and you say that you're available for 20 hours per week, and now the job has changed and the requiring you to work full-time, but no compensation has changed. There's been no discussion, no expectation changes, they're simply asking you to work full-time rather than what you agreed to, which was part-time. Well now you probably need to have a conversation with your boss about expectations, right? That's when you start having a problem. That's when there's some breakdown. You may need to be prepared as the employee, you may need to be prepared that job will no longer be there. If your job requirements to maintain viability, in other words, if the funding for your job requires that you change what you're doing in that job and you are unwilling to change, then the funding is no longer there. Therefore it's possible that you are going to have to find a different job if you want to continue doing the same things that you've been doing. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. I know this is a difficult subject to cover. It's one of those subjects that we really want to work together to avoid these massive shifts in expectations. We want to work together with our employers to know what is coming in the future and what are we willing to sacrifice in the short term so that we maintain a long-term vision? What are we willing to do versus what are we not willing to do? We have to have these kind of value discussions with our employers on regular basis about how we deal with uncertainty. How we deal with the fact that the market may shift requirements and everything that we've spent our time or our energy or even our money investing to learn and all of our expectations may shift. How do we deal with those shifts? That's really what today's episode is about. Thank you again for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. This show wouldn't exist without you. My job on this show is to coach you through the hardest parts of your career. To give you the inspiration and the excitement and also the guidance that you need through some of these difficult things. I hope you'll send me questions. Developer Tea.gmail.com. Why open for those questions? Would love to hear from you. Love, always love hearing the stories of people listening to this show and what it's done for them in their careers. Thank you so much again for listening. Thank you again to Dolby for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Web developers. You can get your HTML 5 apps running full surround. At most, all of the high level Dolby things that you have in your home theater, you can now get them in the browser. Go and check it out, spec.fm slash Dolby. Thank you again for listening. Make sure you subscribe and until next time, enjoy your tea.