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New job gone bust: Unexpected jobs expectations

Carlos Baldizon Martini | March 3, 2014

The thrill of getting hired in a new job is great and no one wants to go from newly employed to newly searching yet again.

Part of my job is to talk to job seekers and help them either ramp up their job search, to improve the quality of their efforts when it comes to how to write their cover letter or résumé or to setup a path for long-term career success if they’re already in a job.

This week I talked to a woman who was recently hired by an organization only three weeks ago. On the phone, she sounded distressed. It turns out that the job title she thought she was hired for did not match up to the daily job expectations of her boss. All too common do we hear about this sort of mixup: employers hire for a certain job title but (accidentally or purposefully) don’t accurately represent the duties and jobs expectations of the role.

In addition to feeling out of her element, said that she felt she was being excluded from significant meetings by her supervisor. When she expressed interest in participating in important meetings, her supervisor’s response was, “You will probably be lost.”

She’s fully aware that if she does not attend such meetings, she will of course always continue to be “lost” and not perform her role well and her discomfort will only worsen.

As I talked to her, she told me that her plan was to simply resign, even though she really didn’t want to because she had only recently been hired and did not look forward to starting the job hunt over again.

I informed her that communication is crucial – even if it’s uncomfortable. Instead of just quitting, I recommended she sit down with her manager and have a professional, yet candid, conversation that covered her reasons of why she should attend the aforementioned meetings and how not attending prevents her from being a fully-participating member of the team.

If you’re having a similar job expectations issue, you may benefit from the following tips I gave to this job seeker on how to approach your boss:

  1. Make a 30 minute appointment to talk to your boss. Some managers tend to prefer this approach over the drop-in, but it really depends on your boss’s style. In either case, it’s always better to try to catch your boss during a less hectic time of day and when he is having a good week.
  2. Decide what you want to say and how you want to say it. Talk your concern over with a mentor or trusted friend and decide how to present the issue in a constructive, assertive, specific, and factual way. I’d even suggest role playing the discussion with your mentor or friend. Do not discuss it with your co-workers, your manager’s manager, or HR unless it’s a serious issue.
  3. Describe the behavior (not your assumptions about possible intentions) and the impact of the behavior on you. Try to be as specific as possible and come to the meeting prepared with examples if asked to provide any.
  4. Listen, don’t be defensive, and ask clarifying questions. Again, best case scenario is there isn’t really a problem and your boss wasn’t aware of the impact of his/her behavior. If there really is a problem, and the problem is you, then great, you’re on the road to solving it.
  5. Work with you manager to solve the problem. Offer your own suggestions, and ask your manager for ideas. Ask your manager to describe what it would look like when you are meeting expectations or what success would look like.
  6. Thank your manager for his/her time and willingness to discuss the issue with you. If appropriate, set up a 15-minute follow-up meeting to check in and make sure things are back on track.

The thrill of getting hired in a new job is great and no one wants to go from newly employed to newly searching yet again. Remember, try to put your emotions aside (for the time being) and articulate what you need to succeed.

When I walked through these steps, the woman sighed with relief on the phone. She was happy to have a solution to her problem that didn’t involve quitting, and I told her that managing up in this way would also be helpful to her (and her boss) when she begins to address the types of duties and functions she’d like to perform in her role. Whatever the outcome is, she can feel confident she was proactive and took steps to improve her situation.

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