Designing your dream jobFeatured

Read any job description for a role in tech and you might find one of the following: “team player,” “adaptable,” “ability to juggle tasks.” Move on to the interview and you may learn that in this role, you’ll be responsible for wearing many hats and having your hands on a number of different projects. If you choose to work at a startup or in a startup-like environment, chances are you’ll have the opportunity to help define and shape your position, especially if you’re the first person to hold it. Once you’re in the door, you’ll get a sense of how the actual needs of the company match (or don’t match) the job description. Some tasks will be more pressing than others and you’ll learn which responsibilities aren’t really as high priority as they initially seemed. When you find yourself weighing how to best spend your time, it’s helpful to step back and answer this question: what do I really want out of this job? I’ve had two jobs where I was the first to hold a brand new position. First at Forbes, where I was Associate Editor for the Under 30 vertical, and now at early-stage venture fund Lerer Hippeau, where I’m Content and Brand Manager. Having the chance to help design and build your own role can improve happiness, retention, and loyalty because you have the flexibility to focus on tasks you find engaging and interesting. In this way, designing your own job has some serious upsides. But, from my own experience, there are also some things to consider. You have to manage your workload. While it might be exciting to have the chance to pitch new projects and ideas, it’s also easy to overload yourself with things you’re excited about. Chances are, the size and scope of your role will naturally grow over time. Taking on too much too quickly might still lead to burnout even if you’re actually really into everything you’re doing.You have to make a case. Because you’re closest to your own daily tasks, you already know what’s working and not working. Maybe there’s something that’s a heavy lift and it isn’t really moving the needle for your company. If you have the opportunity to help develop your role, you should use it to make a case for how to maximize your time and resources. While there’s no guarantee your supervisor will agree with every suggestion, pitching how you could perform best in your job will at least open up the discussion to offloading certain lower priority things. You need to realize when you need support. Let’s say you’re the first and only marketing person at your startup. At some point, you’re going to need some backup. Communicating with your manager about your bandwidth is not only key for your own sanity but also for your longevity at the company. Is there a plan in place to hire someone to work with you and build a team? Or will you go solo for the foreseeable future? It’s helpful to have a sense of the bigger picture. If you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, managing a large workload might feel slightly more manageable. But, if you’re going at it alone, it’s better to think more sustainably about the work on your plate.Natalie Sportelli is the Content and Brand Manager at Lerer Hippeau, the most active early-stage venture capital firm in New York. She comes from Forbes, where she served as Associate Editor for the Under 30 vertical. She sits on the Junior Advisory Board of tech nonprofit RaisedBy.Us and runs @bywomenvcs, a handle that amplifies content by women in venture capital. She graduated from Colgate University, where she studied English and History.
Really nice article Natalie! So true that the job description is just one part of the job. It’s not until you get there that you really see how correct that description is. Would love to have you guest on my podcast Winning In Work - more about it can be found here:
Hi Nikki! Great topic for podcasts! Love it. Elena
Thank you for this! I'm currently in the same position of navigating a brand new role - for both the company and for me.
Super insightful, thanks for sharing!