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Careers Café

Creating the job you want: developing a proposal


If you’re lucky enough to work for an organization you like, and unlucky enough to be frustrated by some of the work that doesn’t get done, you may be well positioned to propose a new position – for the organization and for yourself.

It may sound audacious to propose an entirely new role, but it can be a huge time-saver for an organization if someone close to the work that needs to be done identifies an important gap to fill, proposes a good way to fill it and is willing to shorten the hiring process by making themselves available for it.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the organization will agree that the gap is essential or, if it is, that you’re the person to fill it. But you can help your proposal along by preparing to discuss:

  • The scope and the impact of the problem. This might seem obvious, but you may be dealing with the problem every day, while the person you’re proposing a solution to is only somewhat aware of it. Have numbers and anecdotes to show that the problem exists and is important enough to solve.
  • The likely scope and impact of the solution. A former colleague who had been working as a tutor proposed a learning strategist position, based on the impact she could have developing students’ learning skills rather than providing support with content knowledge for individual courses. Of course, any claims you make about your solution’s scope and impact should also be supported.
  • Why you are the ideal person to solve the problem. Again, don’t assume that the person you’re proposing the solution to is as familiar with your daily experiences as you are. You may have to remind them (or make them aware of) strengths and accomplishments in which you wish they were already well versed.
  • How the transition could happen. If you’re going to be solving new problems, then presumably someone else will need to do at least part of your current work. What are some of the ways you could make sure that the transition is smooth, or some reasons why the transition is easier than a) having someone other than you solve the problem and b) not solving the problem at all.

Not everyone gets to be in the position to identify a potential job opportunity and successfully propose it, of course. But proposing your own job is a pretty great way to find work that is satisfying, caters to your strengths and that solves a real problem.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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