Career: Sans The Manual

2011 October 25
by Grace Boyle

My post-collegiate career consists of online startups, entrepreneurs, social media, community building, expanding users and marketing.

Recently, I was thinking that the two jobs, since graduating, both were brand new positions. When I jumped into them no one had had this position before. There was no path for me to follow. No manual. Little-to-no guidance. A crash and burn or wildly succeed option.

I think with our generation, the expansion of new kinds of marketing, and new fields that this type of job option is more viable than ever. Also, if you opt for a new company, there’s a lot of paving and paths to be created, period.

So many of my good friends started new jobs this year. I’m not sure what was in the stars, but I was fascinated in learning how these positions challenged each of us and what was involved (structure-no structure, etc.)

At my current position, I didn’t have an official job application process – I didn’t even see the job description upon accepting the job over beers. However, since I help run our company blog I noticed part of the job description they had posted on the blog (after I started) and this last paragraph stood out to me:

More than anything, this job requires a desire to achieve and a desire to make things happen. Start-ups are exciting because you create a business from nothing, and as we grow our sales & marketing operation, this job will be in the center of that action. At the same time, there will be no employment manual to assist you; you have to be comfortable to enjoy figuring out challenges on your own and the thrill of having carved your own path of success every day. We measure our success by how many customers and how much revenue we earn; you must have a strong desire to personally push those metrics forward.

I mean, my second day on the job I was on a sales call with a customer. By myself.

I believe these jobs are the ones that challenge us. Sam Davidson wrote recently, “you won’t grow until you stretch.”

I find myself frustrated sometimes and wish I could reference someone that did it before me, what they built, their answers, their steps…but I also step back and realize, that this is the kind of position I’m thriving in. 

I’ve realized these things in the sans-manual, sans-training job world that:

  • You create your own questions and subsequent answers
  • You thrive in quicksand-situations and think on your feet
  • You can make decisions that you know benefit the company
  • You know what you don’t know
  • You learn to exercise faith and ride the risk wave with eloquence
  • You make it easier for those who come in after you, as you build your own manual, how-to’s and guidance (they will appreciate you so much)
  • You are a sponge; learning is unlimited
  • You know when to ask for help and when to lean on mentors (KEY POINT HERE)

What else do you think? Have you ever started a position OR a business where you were creating your own path?

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  • Srinivas Rao

    One of my absolute favorite subjects in the world.  I actually was telling a friend the other day that I hope I’m never hired based on my resume again since it doesn’t tell anybody anything about who I really am. Josh Waldman even says your resume is your obituary. I think the people who want directions on how to do a job will never thrive in an environment like the ones you’ve described. My work on Flightster was quite a bit like what you are talking about.  Personally if a job description is really narrow I would want nothing to do with it since wouldn’t cause you to stretch. 

  • Grace Boyle

    I agree! I think that I might always find jobs based off a trusted network and understanding the fit is right. The additional step is that people shouldn’t be constricted to doing XYZ. That’s very specific and also doesn’t leave room for growth or rearranging (which always happens, nothing is set in stone).

    Thanks for sharing :) Love it!

  • Esther

    It also means you won’t be held to anyone else standards – there’s no predecessor whose shoes you have to fill or particular standards you have to live up to. You can define your own success.

  • Grace Boyle

    Really great point! There’s so much room to grow and expand.

  • Leslie Forman

    Well said. Sounds like my life (albeit in different time zones!) In my experience it’s much much more empowering to come into a role that has just been created at the time you’re coming on board, compared with filling a role that someone else used to fill (that was the case at one startup I worked for, and that was not nearly as fun. It filled me with the feeling of, “so THAT’s why the person quit…”) 

    Now I’m in the process of starting my own company. The best way to learn? By doing. 

    Have a great day!

  • Grace Boyle

    Good for you, Leslie! That’s great to hear. I always love blogging as it’s a place for us to publicly connect and of course, blend timezones not just the friends who are immediately around us. Can’t wait to hear your own version of paving your own path.

  • Sam Davidson

    This is a great story, Grace. I love to take jobs where I’m the first. It allows the freedom to create. For me, the downside is that once the creation is done, and it’s on to management mode, I tune out. I need to be better about that, or know when it’s time to hand something off.

  • Grace Boyle

    Sam, you bring up a very good point.

    At my last job I was trucking away, building and creating, adding new ideas and creating a process. We started to hire a team of “Grace’s” (their words not mine ha) and it was then me adjusting as the lead and manager and it was definitely hard. I didn’t tune out, just realized being responsible for other people was challenging and also, requires a new skillset than kicking ass by yourself.

    Thanks for sharing :) I’m going to ponder on that, it’s great.

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