Role

Once upon a time, jobs could be interchangeable with roles. The industrial fabric of society was evolving slowly, if at all. Job titles, and what those titles meant, were very stable. 

Job titles are, however, changing due to a number of factors including new business models, forms of organization, and automation. I prefer to use the term role instead of job or position as it gets at the heart of what it is that you do to add value in an organization.

Adding value means being useful or creating something that would not happen if it was not for you. It may not be a unique contribution but if you do not add something than it is hard to imagine that anyone will give you a steady income for just showing up. Another way to phrase it is that each one of us has to bring something to the party if we want to get invited back.

You might find that my focus on value as opposed to meaning or passion is too cold or heartless but these ideas are discussed in other parts of the overall framework. When thinking about different roles, it is critical that you honestly and objectively identify what the value of that role might be in a particular space and at a particular place and time.

I also do not limit value to its economic meaning. The music and film teacher at our local High School, for example, had an enormous impact on both my daughters when they were his students. His value in the community is, in my view, enormous, although his salary is relatively modest.

Does the role have to do with teaching, developing new science, applying existing technology or is it more associated with connecting ideas and people, selling or doing something to help a business operate such as managing its financial position, finding and retaining people or providing some of the other services needed in today’s complex society.

For some people their role is clear in their mind and they are deeply satisfied by doing what they have been doing or what they have studied or trained to do. Others have found themselves in a specific role as if by accident and have a strong desire to change the role they are playing.

Regardless on whether you find yourself in a classic functional organization, a matrix structure or a new agile model, the key is to be clear about what role you are playing, the value it adds, and why you want to play that role in a particular space.

Within a given space there are a number of different subjects or topics. Which ones do you want to deal with? In the example above my student had not thought through if  he would rather be on the development side, the legal aspects or the trading desk? You can also look at the more classic functional areas in a business such as finance, marketing, sales or human resources to get a sense of the different subjects which lead to roles

What has struck me over the years is how some people seem to fit very well with their profession and others seem to struggle against what they do every day. Finding the right role also requires you to have a realistic and honest assessment of your skills and aptitudes as well as the life you want to live and the challenges you are willing to endure in order to get where you want to go.

In summary, each role requires a different combination of skills, aptitudes and lifestyle. 

Finally, in thinking about a specific role I urge you to look at how special the role is today and also what it is likely to look like at some point in the future. The following are ten roles that I see as being somewhat future proof although they will certainly evolve over time. I list them here to illustrate what I mean by the concept so you can figure out the role or roles you want to play.

  1. Educator
  2. Systems engineer
  3. Marketeer
  4. Financial whiz
  5. Technician
  6. Salesperson
  7. Supply Chain Manager
  8. Health Care and Wellness practitioner
  9. Human resource manager
  10. Entrepreneur

Please do not be concerned if the role you are interested does not appear on my top 10. The point of sharing some thought on these is to stimulate your own ideas about how to define a role that appeals to you and how it may evolve in the future.

To dig deeper into a specific space, please go to the forum section of the web site. There, I have made some comments on these 10 roles but I invite you to others as you see fit.