“Just doing my job” is not enough, for you

I’m sure we’ve all heard that phrase before, “just doing my job”. But in the context of this article, I don’t mean to use this as a means of excuse such as:

"Why the hell did you do [something I don’t agree with]?"

"Just doing my job."

I mean it in terms of YOU. Is “just doing your job” good enough for you? To stay in one place, keep your tunnel vision on and keep going? I’d say, “No”. It’s not good enough for anyone that wants to:

  • advance in their field
  • advance as a human being

I could talk about “shoulds”. You should want to learn, you should do more than just your job description, you should, you should, you should. No, I disagree with that. There’s no “should”. There is only my friendly advice.

Look outside of YOU

And look at what your co-workers are doing. Look at how you fit in the chain with everyone else, learn their job, too. Not to do it but to make your job better.

For example, there’s the age-old “designer” vs “developer” conundrum. The disconnect in discussion and understanding. Sometimes there is the kind of superiority complex going on, sometimes there are misunderstandings, and often, there is frustration. I used to work in a PSD to WP kind of operation and it’s where any developer or designer first comes in contact with this phenomenon.

As a developer I’ve dealt with:

  • messy Photoshop files where layer names didn’t make sense, images were scattered across layers.
  • design expectations that were not possible at the time due to lack of support, time constraints, or otherwise.
  • “extra features” that could easily tack on double the amount of time necessary to fulfill the project.

It can be INCREDIBLY frustrating to deal with this. You just want to reply and say “Dude, come on. I can’t do this.”, you want to so badly just return that file but you can’t.

The thing is, as a designer, I’ve dealt with similar frustrations:

  • developers that “looked over” or “forgot” an important part of the design.
  • developers that made design decisions that didn’t make sense, and it wasn’t their place to make the decision in the first place.
  • “I can’t do this” replies to seemingly trivial features

And it sucked. However, having worked with both sides and having worked closely with designers outside of the PSD to WP shop, I learned a lot about how the process could be smoothed out. I’ve worked both sides, you know the advantage that gave me? I was able to:

  • make weighted design vs development decisions. What was the time/cost benefit of this feature?
  • learn to approach the project manager or designer to discuss any problems
  • inform any designers I’ve worked with what could make my job easier (such as using layer “groups”) and the operation more efficient
  • know the limits of design in terms of technology and apply that to my design process.

Looking outside of “just doing my job” allowed me to work faster, closer, and friendlier with others. It saved me headaches and opened communications between me and a designer.

Look Toward The Future

At any job, there comes a time where you’ll be asked to do something outside of your job description. And on top of that, with any job search, you’ll find a job “similar but not exactly it” in terms of responsibilities. Guess what looking outside of your cubicle helps you do? Perform well.

Jobs ebb and flow as their descriptions do. Especially in the tech field. A "web designer" role gradually expanded to "ui designer", a job that requires more than just an eye for static graphics. A "web developer" is no longer just that, it can encompass front-end development, which can be very different form being a "ux developer" and other job positions.

If you don't watch what your peers are doing, you can easily stagnate, and you can mess up the entire flow. "Just doing my job" is irrelevant. It sucks when you apply to the work you do for others, and it sucks for you as well.