my new job isn’t what I signed up for

In today’s podcast, I talked to someone who’s worried that her new job isn’t what she signed up for. Here’s the letter:

I recently graduated with a master’s degree a few months ago and just started a new job a month ago. The new job has moved me from a customer service/assistant role and into a role with more agency that is better aligned with my degree. It came with a pay raise and a great title. I’ve only been here a month and was initially very excited about the position, but now I’m having some serious second thoughts. The position that I’m in was initially held by one person and was split into two when that person moved on, so me and my colleague were hired together.

Through the interview process, the job description for my job was edited to be more appealing to me, which was great! But I’ve found that a major project I wanted to participate in is actually my colleague’s responsibility. Most of the work I’ve been doing was basically handled by an intern before I came on board, which was not revealed during the interview process. In fact, most of the things that excited me about the job have taken a back seat to the “intern work.” My boss has been great so far and wants me to think about strategy for the organization but I have so much of that intern work that I really don’t have time to. It has been a tough transition and I haven’t been gelling well with my new coworkers who are so passionate about the work they do (some have been here for 10-15 years!). In a lot of ways, I miss my old job. My pay and title were definitely worse, but the PTO was abundant, the people were great, and work life balance was a dream, though there was no opportunity for advancement.

I know it’s only been a month but I’ve never felt so stressed and disappointed by a new job before. Part of it might be growing pains into a new position with more responsibility but on the other hand it just might not be a good fit. The tricky part is that I was job searching for three months before this opportunity came along and this was one of three jobs where I got to the final round (was offered this position and another) so I felt like I didn’t have too many options. I’m also concerned that potentially leaving will impact my resume negatively. I stayed at my first job for six years, my next job for a year and half, and my third job for two years (I was employed at the second and third job full time while going to grad school).

Any thoughts about getting through those rocky few months at a new job or understanding when something is just a bad fit and what to do next?

The show is 27 minutes long, and you can listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen right here:

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 48 comments… read them below }

  1. Stella70*

    I would love, love, love advice on this for myself! Started a new job in May; I was hired to be an Office Manager with what sounded like wide-ranging and challenging responsibilities. In reality, I am a data entry clerk – nearly all A/P. My background is high level contract negotiations, procurement, and human management, but I thought managing a busy office would utilize a lot of these skills and give me a better work/life balance. I do adore my co-workers – the best group of people I have ever worked with – but there is no hope that this position will ever evolve into what I was told it would be (this I know for certain). How long must I stay before I can start applying for new positions? Frankly, I have already begun, given the job environment where I live, but how to explain this to an interviewer?

    1. Adlib*

      I had to do this several years ago. I honestly just told places I was interviewing with that my current job wasn’t what I thought it would be based on how the interview went. I didn’t run into any problems doing that. Fortunately, after you leave, you can eventually leave it off your resume.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          If you know for certain that it will never work out, there is no reason to stay*.

          *If you’ve been there 6-9 months, you might as well round up and stay for a year, but anything before that, I would just get out and later leave it off your resume.

      1. Bigintodogs*

        I’m going through this too. The job is not at all what it was advertised as, and I also feel like I’m doing intern work. I’ve been interviewing since last month even though I just started in June. I usually say the job is not what it seemed it would be and it’s not challenging/utilizing my skills.

        1. From the High Tower on the Hill*

          Agreed. My current job I started off as an intern/part-time while I was in college. Now that I am full-time it is all of my intern responsibilities with the added joy of scheduling. Not that I mind paying my dues and such, but they promised me a lot more when I accepted the full time job and I had other offers out of college that would have been more in line with what I wanted. Now I am stuck in this job because I am not gaining really any skills that will get me to where I want.

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Question for you and @From the High Tower on the Hill, I’ve seen the phrase ‘intern work’ in both your responses. I’m curious about this, because generally speaking interns in my industry do the entry level type tasks and at least in my group they get one or two resume builder type projects.

          What are/were you expecting for your first post-intern position?*

          *Not a snarky question, I’m wondering what your expectations were/are to see if that’s a disconnect.

          1. NotaPirate*

            Not the original poster but to me “intern work” is work that doesn’t lead to anything. It’s one off projects that aren’t very important (no impact, no following projects based on them directly), it’s support work for other people’s projects instead of something you can take ownership on, and its work that is basically checked by someone else (usually whoever’s project it actually is).

            “Intern work” is sometimes archival, like here this project did great, go through and summarize all the whatever sheets and make a database of the results, and sometimes prep – here we’re thinking to maybe someday do this thing, run the numbers on it and list out what we would need.

            It’s not necessarily bad. For an intern, its a great way to learn about a company/lab and get a feel for the types of projects and the scope. But it’s not something you can really use in an interview beyond that first entry level job, know what I mean? Nor is it something you can easily leverage into a case for why you deserve a raise.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              I would add to this, in my org “intern work” may refer to the person in charge of the paperwork or admin tasks that goes into supporting someone who is doing the substantive work. Filing, sorting, scanning things, following up on low level stuff that comes up day to day. Fetching lunch for meetings. Technically, that should be “assistant work,” but in my office we’d say “intern”.

              For an actual school-age intern, this experience is valuable because they get to observe office norms and understand how the higher-level person is thinking and operating. But if you were hoping to BE the higher-level person and you find yourself instead freeing up someone else to make the Big Moves, while you take care of the administrative side … that’s a bit of a bait and switch.

          2. From the High Tower on the Hill*

            Oh no worries, no snark came off on that. So I work for the government/in politics. When I was discussing with my boss about possibly moving to being a full-time employee when I graduated from college, she told me that I would be able to take the lead on several pieces of legislation once I came on full-time and would be able to shadow her for committee work and things of that nature. She told me a few months into my full-time position that she didn’t have the time to start going through legislation with me, even though I had already had two of my bills drafted, and that we would start working on committee stuff next year. So while I was an intern, basically my only job was constituent work (i.e. answering phones, responding to constituent inquiries, etc.) and now my full-time job is that same constituent work plus a little scheduling thrown in.

            It isn’t exactly unexpected, my boss can be a bit…temperamental when it comes to people that she thinks are encroaching on her work which I now know since starting full-time. I was fully expecting to continue doing most of the work that I am doing today but was still expecting to be able to start working on legislation.

            I hope that answered your question.

          3. Bigintodogs*

            NotaPirate described it really well. I will also add that the work is not challenging. Not that every second of every day should be challenging work, but I will say when you’re trying to move on from your entry-level position and all you can say to interviewers is that you make spreadsheets or do seemingly random tasks with no measurable outcome, it can be hard to showcase your skills to a potential employer.

            1. Stella70*

              I am not above any work (meaning, I think you can find honor and value in any job), but if I have to key in one more invoice, I swear I will start screaming and never stop. I have been in the workforce 30 years and have worked very hard to get my skill-set to where it is and I am now doing the work I would have been thrilled to do 25 years ago.

              1. Been There, Done That*

                Great point. My “office manager” position was presented as supervising, managing projects, and a host of high level responsibilities. Total bait-and-switch; essentially it’s a call center job, with a little office work on the side. Phone service rep is fine if it’s what you applied for and what you want, but it’s far from what I’m best at. Yes, every job has honor and value, but after decades of working up from the first rung, getting an education, all that, I’m back stamping mail and putting paper in copy machines.

          4. From the High Tower on the Hill*

            Oh and now the office is refusing to bring on a new intern (in politics, there is no shortage of potential interns) so I am stuck with a lot of the very medial tasks in the office that would typically be delegated to interns. Plus the person in my position before me was able to coordinate the internship program for the office which is something that I was told would be my role in the office, but again that never came to fruition.

    2. Golddigger*

      I started looking one week after my bait and switch job. Left 8 months later after I used all of my vacation, which they wouldn’t pay out.

    1. OldJules*

      A director shared with me that the first 6 months of a job change will be hell. Just work through it and it will get better.

  2. Sam*

    I was in a similar boat a while ago. I knew about 3 months in it wasn’t a good fit but stuck it our for a year to see if I could make it into something. It’s still on my resume but since I had the job before that for 6 years and the job after for 8, no one bats an eye at the one year.

  3. GrapefruitHero*

    I had the same problem when I was hired in my current position. I almost left after a few months because I was so frustrated by having my time taken up my low-skill, low-impact work. In my situation, my manager didn’t even assign the higher-level projects that I had been promised…so I took them on myself. I realize this isn’t something everything could do, but instead of asking for permission to start a project, I just did it and presented it to my manager after it was done. I’ve been here for three years now, and my job has morphed into what I was originally promised. My “real” job duties add so much to the organization that most of the low-skill stuff has been taken off my plate so I have time to do my real job.

    It sucks, but be patient and proactive. If you still aren’t seeing results, then it might be time to look for a new job.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Weren’t those higher level projects already assigned to people? Or were there already plans to assign them to people? What happened with that? I would never just start doing something without getting my boss’s ok bc I feel strongly about not stealing other people’s projects.

      1. GrapefruitHero*

        We’re a small office (like, four people) with really specific job descriptions–director, finance manager, IT, and me. I’m the only one who handles training, program development, and compliance. My position was empty for several years before I started, so the work just wasn’t getting done, or it was happening in a really sloppy way by the finance manager. She was more than happy to give up stuff that wasn’t in her job description. So, I wasn’t stealing people’s projects. I was seeing the gaps in what we were doing, figuring out what was within my purview, and doing it.

    2. Gloucesterina*

      Yes, I’m very curious about how this played out, Grapefruit Hero. Were these projects just sitting out on a buffet table for people with extra time to pick up? How did you pick them up, and how did you find the time apart from your assigned duties to work on them? Did you work on them independently and/or did you solicit feedback on your progress?

      1. GrapefruitHero*

        They were things that my organization should have been doing, but wasn’t. I’m in a field where there are several other organizations like ours, and everyone has someone with my title/job description. So, I was able to 1.) see what I was supposed to be doing based on my job description and 2.) see what other people with my job were doing. The low-level stuff that was assigned to me when I started, stuff that was not in my job description and what I would call “busy work,” wasn’t time-consuming. It barely took up a few hours of my day.

        I realize I’m in a unique situation, but it worked for me. I’m not saying it would work for everyone. I was just sharing my experience.

      2. GrapefruitHero*

        I suppose I should clarify that the higher-level projects were very specific to my role. Things like creating an orientation handbook, developing a training schedule, etc. I should also clarify that I don’t have the best manager, so when I would say things like, “I’m going to identify training needs and develop a training schedule for the upcoming year,” he would give me a bunch of superficial reasons why I shouldn’t. Hindsight being 20/20, I guess it could have gone the other way and I could have been fired, but I was determined to prove my value.

  4. NotaPirate*

    Is there any way to include a link to the original audio post with its comments in the transcript posts? I like to read the transcripts (Thanks so much whoever writes them out!!) and I would love to see what the comments were, currently scrolling through the blog to get to that post is a week later.

  5. I Heart JavaScript*

    I’m having some of this right now. I’ve been in my current role for ~7 months and I realized pretty quickly that the culture/dynamics were not what was described in the interview process. I had some red flags in the post-offer phase that I should’ve listened to, but I was so desperate for my first software engineering job that I ignored them. Next time around, I’m going to be a lot more picky, since if I leave soon, I’ll need to stick around at my next job for a long while not to look like a job hopper.

  6. 1.5 years til Retirement*

    Many years ago, right out of grad school I interviewed for a job that was to be varied, interesting, and full of opportunity. I even had the job posting listing all the varied duties. Come first week, I was told I was going to be doing one thing, basically data entry, for at least 2 years. I started looking for a new job at the end of my first week. It took me 6 months to find one and I took it.

    I told interviewers that the actual job did not match the job description, that I needed a job where I did lots of different things, not one thing all the time. One interviewer, for the job I ended up taking actually, tested me by telling me it was only one duty there as well. I thanked him and stood up to leave. It was kind of funny watching him backpedal.

    1. No Secrets Please*

      I hope that lie he said to test you was a temporary lapse of judgment and he was actually a great person to work with!

  7. all the candycorn*

    I’ve been in this situation a few times now, and each time I had it pegged correctly after the first week, but gave the employer a dozen chances because “it takes time to adjust/we’re still setting you up/orientation on X skill takes Y weeks to get sorted out/we’re working out the kinks of the previous person who had the job” etc., etc. Going forward, if I find out such things by the end of the first week, I’m going give notice. Staying in a job where you’ve been lied to doesn’t lead anywhere good, because by lying to you and stringing you along, they’ve already shown they don’t respect you. It can only get worse from there.

  8. Cat*

    During my interview for CurrentJob, I specifically stated that I was leaving OldJob because my role had devolved into an admin position. The two interviewing me said, “Oh don’t worry, we won’t have you do any of that, that’s a waste of your skills.” (For context, I have a graduate degree and 10+ years of experience.)

    Well, here we are less than a year later and guess what I’m doing? Yep, more and more admin work. I simply don’t understand why companies outright lie. But, CurrentJob came with a 35% raise so I’m just accepting it for a while.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      That sucks. Is there any way to push back a bit? Are they withholding the skill-level work or just adding admin on top? I had the second thing happen a bit when our department eliminated the dedicated office admin role but fortunately it was little enough (and only for myself, as everyone picked up their own share of it) that it wasn’t a problem. But if it’s becoming your main thing and you’re thinking of leaving over it, it might be worth asking to revisit your job duties.

      1. Cat*

        > Is there any way to push back a bit?
        Not…really. It’s a super weird setup that I don’t want to detail too much in case I’m not the only one frequenting this blog. ;-)
        At a very high level – CurrentJob is pimping me out to BigClient, better known as FlamingHotMessClient. CurrentJob not necessarily intentionally withholding skill work, but me doing admin work for BigClient is more advantageous in their eyes because hot messes are good for milking lots of billable hours. And BigClient is too much of a hot mess to realize they are WAAAAAAAY overpaying for what they’re having me do.

        Some people would love to be in my scenario because there’s a lot of downtime, but I don’t like getting paid to just sit around and let my skills rot.

        As to your story of a dedicated admin position being eliminated and everyone picking up they slack, that another thing I don’t get. If there wasn’t enough work for a FT admin position, so be it. And I definitely think that most people should be doing their own expense reports and such. But eliminating a low-paying position to save money but having, presumably, higher paid and higher skilled workers doing admin work? Whyyyyyyy? The only reason the bottom line looks better is because we don’t have a good way to capture waste in financial statements!

  9. Barbara*

    I have 8 years of experience in operations, and the only roles I can seem to get offers for now are entry-level office manager/admin positions that require 1-3 years experience because I haven’t worked for any “big companies.” (That’s the feedback the recruiters give me anyway as the only sticking point.) I’ve pointed out how much I want to work for a larger company, but no one seems to care what environment you do best in — only what you DID do. I can’t stand working for another start-up though. I’m not sure what to do.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Are these recruiters with the actual companies or freelance recruiters? If the latter, I would ignore them and keep applying directly to the companies. Actually, I would keep applying directly to companies and networking to meet people in either case. It’s a long game, but some people are willing to give dark horses a chance. You just have to find those people (just).

  10. AnotherSarah*

    This happened to me in my second job. I WISH I had followed Alison’s advice–in the end I became a sullen and resentful employee, and I’m still embarrassed about the way I left. I think just talking it out with my manager would have helped immensely.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Sometimes you can’t talk it out though. That was the case at OldJob where my manager actually said the company didn’t need a Teapot Analayst they needed a Teapot Assistant. It wasn’t true, they just wanted to pay less.

  11. No Secrets Please*

    The reason so many jobs end up being primarily admin work is because workplaces are continuing to eliminate admin jobs and requiring professionals to do the admin work that previously would have been done by someone else. Except for the most senior positions, gone are the days when secretaries would handle everything professionals didn’t want to do themselves — like filing, proofreading, correspondence, filling out forms and other paperwork, etc. Aside from moving into the C-suite, the best way to find a job where you won’t be doing admin work is by starting a company that grows to the point where you can hire other people to do those things you don’t want to do yourself.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Yep. I had to chuckle a bit when a previous job removed our receptionist/office manager/admin (yes, she wore multiple hats) and suddenly we had engineers and engineering managers doing their own shipping, (for)getting the mail, handling facilities issues and escalating to the building management when needed, etc.

      I…I think the lost productivity way, way more than outweighed her salary…. (Not to mention the immediate morale hit during the layoffs, because she was a wonderful person and coworker.)

      It sounds like what the OP (OC? Original caller?) was dealing with here, though, was more than that – a lack of thoughtfulness about how to re-divide the job when not dealing with an employee-intern but a pair of employees.

  12. Someone Else*

    Is anyone else having issues with the podcast? I’m subscribed via Google play and set to autodownload, but the last three (including this one) aren’t showing up for me. It didn’t do it automatically and I can’t seem to find it manually. I tried unsubscribing and resubscribing but it didn’t help.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I’ve tried Google Play on a couple of different devices, and they all seemed to be working properly.

      You could try rebooting your computer/device or updating the app and seeing if that helps?

  13. Lulu*

    I actually agree with mummy md. Give it time. While I understand that having a masters is a big thing for you it probably isn’t so much for your employer, and it comes down to the fact that often a qualification isn’t really as necessary to do a job as we may think ( hence the intern being able to do it.)

    I think it’s too early to pull the “but I’m qualified for more” card yet, so just hold on until about 6 months or so when you have a good understanding of the company, staff and structure before asking for more responsibility.

    I know it’s frustrating but it’s a marathon not a sprint!

  14. Hot Chocolate*

    I applied for a job that advertised itself as admin and it turned out to be IT helpdesk (no experience in IT!). I was then stuck there for 4 years when all I wanted was an admin job!

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