Now and then, I hear teachers and staff talk about their “ESL Teacher job description” in exasperated tones, which is never a good thing. When they bring up the topic they feel they are doing something in their job that isn’t what they signed on for; in other words, what they have been tasked to do is beyond what they have been contracted to do. In my view, it’s dangerous to adopt this outlook, and what we are dealing with is merely an issue of perspective, which is all under our control. We own our perspective and teaching English abroad is an opportunity to develop, grow and try new things if we have an open mind.
Job descriptions are markers an employer sets to define reasonable expectations of output. They help to guide prospective employees on the right path in their job. Similarly, a job description gives a prospective employee an idea of what they’re venturing into. An intrepid employee will learn the lay of the land and if truly dauntless, will start discovering new pathways and perhaps making their own.
The job description is a certain path. If a person only journeys within the confines of his job description, his experiences will be limited to the safe and the most mundane. This sheltered course ultimately inhibits growth. How could this type of static employee feel entitled to a promotion or a salary increase for just doing their job? Outstanding performance and growth should yield upward mobility, not seniority or chance. I don’t see how any employer could warrant a promotion or a raise for someone hoping for the latter. Do we really want to encourage this career path?
The secret is to step off the beaten path, go in directions no one thought of nor dared to go, and embrace what may come. In the workplace, this means going above and beyond your job description. Many people find this concept daunting. The first step is to, like my father said, “get good at what you do”. Then start looking for problems to solve. Choose something and work towards a solution. Before you know it, you’re in an office full of your colleagues and everyone is just performing their “job description”. What sets you apart?
Many people in management positions I have encountered at EF are multi-tasking, optimistic problem solvers constantly going beyond the limitations of their “job description”. I’m confident people with the inclination to exceed expectations will not be overlooked; they will surely outgrow their jobs and ascend to higher positions. They rarely have to worry about finding employment. The key is the way they look at their role; they don’t feel like they are being exploited when tasked to do something that is not written explicitly in their job description. These superstars feel excited at the possibility of getting to stretch their skillsets and prove themselves to themselves.
Now, I understand there are extreme examples out there of employers unfairly bumping up the workload, but those cases are not the norm. People often do what is expected of them, and not more. However, if you are undeniable, the people around you will know it. If you see the positive in any situation, you won’t go wrong. If your approach to work goes above and beyond, you will be breaking down barriers rather than the other way around. If you take that first step off the path, you will be living a life unrestrained.
I’m Paul Chan. I have no job description.
(was edited by Carter Billingsley and Tiffany Alcock)
Paul Chan takes a hand at teaching, coaching, sales, marketing, training staff, recruiting,
and trailblazing at his school, Kids and Teens Shenzhen 4.