Your New Job Is Nothing Like the Job Description — Now What?

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Frustrated Woman at Work

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Karen Schneider, PMP®, PMI-ACP®, CSM®27
Experienced Project/Program Manager
Any job seeker can tell you that searching for a new job can be an anxious, yet exciting time. Every job search presents an opportunity to move closer to your dream job and advance your career; just like that, you come across a job description listing what you think just might be it.
Fast forward a month: You've aced the interviews and a job offer has been extended. You are on cloud nine, quite certain you just won the lottery — until you start your new job and realize it is nothing like the employee job description. Your job title should probably be some other job title because your duties and responsibilites are totally different from what the requirements asked of you and perhaps even from your qualifications and skills. You're taking on tasks you never anticipated, simply because they weren't in the job specification.

What Is a Job Description?

A job description is an internal document that very clearly delineates the essential job requirements, job duties, job responsibilities and job skills required to perform a specific role. A more detailed job description will cover how success is measured in that particular role so it can be used during performance evaluations and reviews between employees and their managers. If a person exceeds expectations and takes on even more or different tasks than what was in the job specification details, a job title change might be on the table. Someone in the human resource department would then get involved, too.
"A properly written job description is often the only document which totally defines what a role is, what skills are required to perform it, and where the role fits in an organization," according to Better Team. "This makes it simple to identify candidates that are a good fit for the role and also to hold candidates accountable if they are not performing essential duties that are required in the role."
Likewise, having a sample job description will make sure employees do not miss any of the key requirements for a role and new hires will have a better understanding of what their role is. My friend Emily found herself in a position in which her job description was nothing like what was asked of her at first. She thought she had an understanding of what her new role was going to be, but she was thrown for a loop. She was hired as the head to a product development team part of a global cosmetics brand. She has years of experience and great passion for doing just that. Instead, however, she found herself straddling the invisible line between product development and brand management, with the latter dominating her time much more heavily.
This happens to employees all the time. But what's a frustrated newbie's next steps in such a conundrum?

Give it a chance and some time.

Emily knew that she was still getting her feet wet, and didn't want to cause any waves too early on. She reasoned that she was still learning, and the two functions were heavily intertwined. Some of the requirements and responsibilites overlapped with the original job profile, but she was taking on more duties than she expected. 
She weighed other factors, such as that the company was currently in transition after a move from the west coast and hadn't yet hired a new Brand Manager. After carefully weighing all factors, Emily decided to wait before she got upset. She reasoned that two months was enough time to expect that she should be up to speed and functioning in her intended role — and that her manager should have filled the other position so that she wouldn't be expected to handle the duties for both. 

Talk to your manager or Human Resources.

After the two-month mark, nothing had shifted and Emily felt frustrated. Armed with a copy of the job description from her new hire orientation, she scheduled a meeting with her direct supervisor to go over a job analysis. She also proactively prepared a list of suggestions for how to shift the brunt of the Brand Manager work off her plate so that she could focus on what she loved and her number-one qualification: creating innovative new beauty formulas and products.
Emily's manager openly acknowledged that she was doing both jobs due to the company's lack of planning and hiring new talent as needed, and promised that things would get better. However, all promises were vague and without a detailed action plan, and after two additional meetings in which Emily reminded her boss that nothing had changed, she took the conversation to HR. Her HR generalist agreed that she wasn't performing the role for which she'd interviewed, but even her hands were tied; Emily was still hitting a dead end.

Determine if there are opportunities in other departments that may be a better fit.

If you're not seeing that things will change with your current role, think outside the box. HR advised Emily that she did have opportunities to make a move internally if she was unhappy with her current role. Because she worked for a large global brand that operated under the umbrella of a larger corporation, she could move to another brand and similar position if a job was posted. It was simply her duty and responsibility to keep an eye out for new opportunities.

Explore your options.

When you're unhappy in your work, it can be difficult to focus on anything but that — and the negative feelings can sometimes seep into other aspects of your life, so be careful. Think deeply about what you're gaining from this job, whether it's experience, job security or just a paycheck. Create a master plan and launch a stealth job search (if needed) while you continue to show up every day, kicking ass. That's exactly what Emily did.
While she was not interested in pursuing a brand management role, she learned about other aspects of the business she had never been exposed to — and, she learned she was really good at it, to boot. It may not have been what she expected, but her résumé now boasts the added strengths she acquired in that role. She learned from working with other types of employees.

Move on. 

Ultimately, if you have tried to keep the lines of communication open and remained transparent with your manager (and she with you, hopefully) about your hopes and expectations, but she can't commit to meeting you where you need to be met, you might decide to move on. Emily eventually decided to leave her job, and is now happily working in a role that allows her to indulge in her passion for product development.
Communicating with your manager and team is an important factor when experiencing a situation like Emily's. If you aren't being met halfway, or at all, consider your career satisfaction and whether the role is helping you to strive towards your career goals, or whether it's derailing you. Even if you enjoy the company culture and are learning new skills, you have to consider your future.
No matter the situation, remember that no one will give you the keys to happiness in your career except YOU. It's your duty and responsibility to take matters into your own hands.
Karen Schneider works for bareMinerals in Global Packaging + Creative Services and is a personal/professional development writer. She currently contributes to The Muse and Career Contessa and has been featured on Business Insider, Fast Company, Inc., and Harvard Business Review for her career advice. She's obsessed with learning, life, and career/self-improvement.