Four years into my last Digital Marketing role, I started to get a little antsy. My younger daughter was over a year old. I had steady childcare coverage and was in a healthy place with self-care (respect to my second born who came out of the womb a good sleeper. I heard this was possible, but never believed!). I was out of working mom triage mode (congrats to the former me!) and began to yearn for a more fulfilling and exciting career. Every time I thought of leaving, I came to the very sound conclusion, “You would be freaking out of your mind to leave this unicorn of a Mommy Dream Job.” I had flexible hours, co-workers I adored, respect, appreciation and a steady salary. So, there was all of that.
When I looked at job descriptions for roles that would be a natural next step with Director of Digital Marketing titles, all I could see were gaps in my experience and reasons they might not hire me--not to mention the dreaded words “fast-paced environment” or “Must be good under pressure.”
And then it came to me. Why don’t I make the job I have into the job I want? I’ve outlined some of the steps I took so you can try them out if you’re in a similar situation and ready to start evolving your role into the one you want.
1. Write an aspirational job description WITH a new title
Now is the time to get creative! How would you tweak your current role to become more exciting, fulfilling and more like the role that’s potentially next on your trajectory? Depending on your relationship with your leader and the culture in your organization, you may or may not share this with the team. Even if you never share it with anyone, it’s great for you to have so you know what you’re shooting for and so you can explain the more tactical tweaks to leadership. This may be controversial in some companies, but in smaller firms—tweaks to titles are absolutely possible. Choose a title that reflects the gravity of your new role and something that will be a closer connection to the next step in your career.
2. Identify skills you want to learn
In my case, I wanted to better understand Digital Content Strategy so I could set the strategic vision for all of our digital and social channels—based on past performance data and strategic goals of the organization. I selected an online course that was well reviewed and requested that my organization fund it because I would be rolling out my new skills to the benefit of the company. Once the course and the strategy were completed, we rolled it out across our channels and tripled our social engagement. It was a win-win-win! What are the skills you want to learn that would also make an impact for the organization and your customers?
3. Earmark conferences you want to attend
Remember all of the times you turned down those invites to interesting sounding events and conferences because you felt like you didn’t have anything exciting to talk about? Instead, you hid out at your desk, optimizing your budget spreadsheet for the umpteenth time that week. Well, things have changed, friend! You’ve wrangled yourself a new role with new projects and opportunities to learn new skills. Now would be a great time to get out onto the conference circuit to be exposed to new ways of thinking and success stories from other companies. Start small with some free or low-cost events that may be two to three hours. Give your leaders the chance to see the impact this time is making on your engagement in your role and on your results before you ask for a ticket to SXSW.
4. Delegate areas of your role you don’t enjoy (wherever possible)
This one has a few caveats for those who don’t have any direct reports, but in my case I had a few smart, capable employees on my team to whom I could hand over work that they enjoyed and I did not. I made a clearer separation between our roles and eventually was able to distribute that to the broader team. My guess is that there are some of you out there who have employees, freelancers, vendors or agencies to which you can delegate certain tasks, but you don’t because you’re either good at these things or you’re known for these things. Neither of these are good reasons to hold on. Delegating tasks is a great way to leave space for new skills and growth. It can be scary to give up the thing we know is a slam dunk in exchange for the thing we’re just learning—but it’s the only way to stretch our skill-sets and embody everything in our aspirational job descriptions!
5. Sell in your ideas to leadership
It’s one thing to put this all on paper, but within 99% of organizations you’ll need to sell this move to leadership to help them understand why it’s good for the company. Help explain why your new direction is in synch with the goals of the team and the broader organization. Promise to keep leadership in lockstep with your evolving vision and your learnings so that your new knowledge benefits a wider audience. In my case and in the case of many of my clients, the leaders involved were not only anxious to make the changes to roles to benefit the organization, but they respected the initiative and courage that came from the employee to bring it to their attention. This will not always be the case. If that is your situation, then you know where you stand and you have some deep thinking to do about your next step.
By re-inventing my job, I was able to take on more of a leadership role at the organization because I was confident and proud about what I was doing day to day and the impact I was making for the business. Two years into that role, I discovered coaching, fell in love and the rest is history—but I credit this time in my tenure at the organization to helping me get my career mojo back after having my kids. It was one of those moments I was reminded—hey I’m the one in charge of my career! And man, did that mantra stick!