Navigating Professional Growth: A Practical Guide to Job Responsibilities and Self-Advocacy

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Empower Your Career Through Reflective Practices, a Visual Tool, and Strategic Conversations

By: Melissa Lyons, Director of Product Operations, Skillshare

Occasionally, I find myself grappling with work-related existential questions. Is my work essential? How is my unique expertise utilized within the broader business context? Am I performing tasks at the appropriate level for my position? If I aim to progress, what gaps exist could address to enhance my growth and contribute more value?

As the sole Product Operations person in my organization, I’ve grappled with these thoughts on a quarterly, if not, monthlybasis. I’ve also experienced a few changes in my direct manager (which I’m sure some of you have as well). Some managers have been very hands-on, involved in how I spend my day-to-day, while others have been quite the opposite—checking in every few weeks to ensure I’m not overwhelmed or bored and offering words of encouragement like the ‘keep it up’ speech.

In any role or at any company, I’ve learned that unless I actively advocate for myself, reflect on my own performance, and drive my own growth, my progress is likely to be limited. I take on the role of my own cheerleader to ensure that the organization recognizes, appreciates, and celebrates the operational achievements that I, along with my partners across the organization, are working towards. I am also mindful of the market’s volatility. When envisioning the next job I might need to seek, I want a visual tool to help me process if the job is right for me in the interview process.

I’ve developed this Miro template to organize my thoughts on my job responsibilities. It serves as a hybrid between a Job Responsibility Matrix and a Hierarchy Audit, addressing fundamental questions about what I do and where/with whom I perform these tasks. I personally engage in this exercise to assess the level at which I work and identify potential optimizations in my rhythms.I’ve also shared this resource with others when they are feeling imposter syndrome themselves or have had a recent managerial change. 

With this template, I’ve been able to:

  1. Advocate for myself for inclusion in different circles within my organization 
  2. Set goals for advancement (growth is not always adding, but always refining)
  3. Create a shared understanding of what my role does and how it operates 
  4. Find opportunities for improvement not only in who I meet with on a regular basis, but how

These outcomes are why I’m sharing this resource. Give it a try by duplicating the Miro board and completing the exercise. The rows are the levels in which the work is done, whether it is a meeting, update, or communication channel. The columns are the way in which you function within that space. For example, if you run a status meeting for your marketing directors, you are leading the meeting at the Directors level (even if you aren’t a director yourself). If the meeting is something you attend and are providing essential information, you are a contributor. If it’s something you attend to get information to then pass down to other teams, you are informed.

If you are already in your current job and are auditing your responsibilities, I recommend looking back through the past quarter (perhaps on your actual work calendar and then a completed to-do list) to map out where things happened. Pay attention to the other people in the meeting or email thread to help determine the row placement. If it’s company-wide, you can add to all rows or add a specific, fun emoji that reflects the layered-hierarchy element.

Remember to include:

  • Recurring meetings, including 1:1s
  • Recurring status updates or to-dos
  • Monthly, Quarterly, or Annual tasks
  • Any documentation or Project Management responsibilities that happen asynchronously
  • Presentations that you originate or attend
  • Especially things that may not be a part of your job description (think mentoring someone, internal erg work, etc).

Next, look for gaps – where are the stickies not as populated? Is that appropriate for your current position? Could those be growth opportunities for you as you seek advancement? Look for stickies that are especially full. Are there ways to streamline those items? Are you running cycles that you could end, combine, or create automations for to decrease your time spent there?

Optional levers to pull once you’ve done this exercise:

  • Match this to your current job responsibilities. If you don’t have easy access to this, you should be able to request this from your HR or People Operations Representative. Audit this for a check on what other people expect from you on paper VS what you actually deliver. Sometimes a lateral title change needs to be on the table to accurately reflect what you do (as was my case in the change from Project Management to Product Operations). A clear map of what you are doing vs what you were hired to do is extremely helpful in those conversations.
  • Review with your manager. This can be a tricky one, depending on your current boss. I’ve found it helpful to review if my boss has never managed me before and isn’t quite sure what my overlap with other departments actually looks like. We’ve also been able to talk through future possible promotions and ways in which I could step into higher hierarchies to drive value.
  • Share with other teammates that you work cross-functionally with to ensure visibility. I’ve been able to share this with Directors across the aisle so they can see what meetings or cycles I’m already involved in and how to leverage my expertise. There have also been instances where we note folks I should be meeting with on a regular cadence, but they or I were unaware. As an organization grows or reorganizes, this is a helpful level set.

If you are mapping out a dream position in an organization that you are interviewing with, map it to the people who are actually interviewing you. It can spur on questions that you may have for them on how they operate and how you could fit into the organization at large. Questions that may come out of your conversations:

  • What other people would I overlap with at the organization that isn’t within this department?
  • What does communication from the exec team look like and what cadence does that happen at?
  • What forums are feedback collected in outside of HR/People Operations?
  • How much does the organization leverage in-person vs asynchronous communication? Are there remote or in-person commitments I would need to attend?

There’s flexibility on how to leverage this exercise for your own use. Feel free to add rows, columns, or even change up the color scheme if it doesn’t suit your mood. I hope it helps you process and advocate for yourself with real actionable, visualized data and how you fit within your organization, and how that may need to change.By transforming your experiences and reflections into actionable, visualized data, you’re equipped to articulate your value and identify areas where change may be beneficial.