For several years now, I’ve been keeping tabs on job descriptions that are similar to the work I do at Buffer or a level or two ahead of what I’m currently doing. I don’t ever apply to these roles, I just copy and paste the job title into a new note in an Evernote folder that I keep. 

Over the years, this folder of job descriptions has become really valuable to me. I talk about this process a little bit in my post about career lists. I’m the only one at Buffer who has ever worked in a public relations role so it’s really helpful to pull from other job descriptions to get a sense of what other companies do in terms of responsibilities and career advancements. Another way that I dig into that is by doing cold outreach to people who have a similar job title to mine and work at companies that are also in the tech industry.

Something I didn’t talk about in that career lists post that I’ve done in most recent years is to use those job descriptions, coupled with my own current job description, to write a job description that I view as a career goal — a position and responsibilities that I would like to get to one day. 

Why this has been powerful for me 

Planning for a future job description has been really useful to me in creating a clear picture of the path I want to be on. So often, it’s easy to fall in patterns and get stuck doing the same work. (At least, for me.) By writing out exactly what I’d like to be doing in the future I have a great idea of the areas I need to improve on, the skills I need to acquire, and which projects I should start working on to bring me closer to that future. 

This feels especially useful to people at smaller organizations. I know that at some organizations, there might already be plenty of roles and job descriptions and so this might not be as necessary. At smaller organizations, however, that job might not exist yet, which is the case for me.

Another benefit of having this job description is that I am really well prepared in career conversations. When the manager I used to report to started putting together a growth plan for me, a document that looks at where you are now and where you want to go, I had a really clear answer for where I wanted to go and we were able to spend the rest of the call focused on how he could best help me get there. 

It also recently came in handy when discussing my career with someone else on the Buffer team who wound up becoming my manager. She asked me if I had a goal for where I’d like my career at Buffer to take me and I had an answer ready. 

Creating a future job description  

Writing a job description for a future role is relatively easy when you have a folder filled with examples. 

I recommend getting started by setting up saved searches on LinkedIn for roles that are both similar to yours and ahead of the work you’re currently doing. Over time, as you see more job descriptions you’ll be able to more easily refine the exact kind of work you want to do. 

For example, I’ve worked primarily in public relations at Buffer, but doing more research I realized I’d love to move into a more broad communications role, something I’m grateful to have been able to do recently. 

When combining the job descriptions you’ve saved, there are often lots of similarities, after removing those I make sure the description is specific enough. A lot of job descriptions will be quite vague, but for my purposes it’s always been helpful to be more detailed. What helps is adding details from the organization you work at so the description will be more relevant. 

My future job description has also been something I’ve iterated on over time as I’ve seen more job descriptions that I quite like. 

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Creating a future job description might not be right for everyone, but for me it’s been an incredibly powerful tool. I hope it can be useful to you as well. 

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