how much training and support should I expect in a job I wasn’t totally qualified for?

A reader writes:

What expectations for training should I have if I am hired for a job that I’m not totally qualified/trained for?

I am working for a nonprofit organization where I have been for the past five years. When I saw the job posting, it sounded like something I would really enjoy doing. I didn’t feel that I met all of the qualifications for the position but I figured it couldn’t hurt to apply, as job listings frequently list requirements that are higher than what is actually required. I was very honest during the interview process about what I knew and didn’t know. I didn’t lie or try to make any of my skills sound better than they were at all.

Well, as it would happen, I got the job and after five years I am sadly looking for other jobs. I wear many different hats and there are too many parts of my job that are important that I have received zero training on. I feel like a horrible employee, but I receive very good annual reviews.

I don’t feel like my work is bad enough to get fired over, but it’s enough to lower my self esteem and I have had to work so hard to compensate for not being properly trained on things that I am responsible for. It’s so discouraging. I have asked for training on some things, and others I didn’t realize were a huge problem till later and I really feel like I should’ve been sent away to a training when I was first hired (I have seen other departments do this for their employees, but my boss didn’t).

Is it my responsibility to only apply for jobs that I am not only qualified for, but also already trained for? If I’m honest with my skills, shouldn’t a boss make sure that they cover the gap in any necessary training if they choose to hire me anyway? How much “learning on the job”/”figuring it out by doing” training is acceptable?

No, it’s not your responsibility to only apply for jobs that you’re confident you’re fully qualified and trained for. You can apply for any jobs you want. It’s the employer’s responsibility to determine if you’ll be able to perform the job at the level they need, as well as to assess what training you might need to do the work successfully.

They’ll get it wrong sometimes, of course. Hiring isn’t a perfect science and sometimes people make mistakes. But then it’s a manager’s job to recognize that and figure out how to proceed — whether that means more training or other support or whether that means recognizing that it’s a fundamentally wrong fit.

In your case, it doesn’t necessarily sound like any of that is the case. You feel like a horrible employee, but you get very good annual reviews. It is possible to see your work more clearly than your boss does and to know that someone with different skills/training/support could be getting much better results, even when your boss doesn’t realize that, and maybe that’s the case here. But it could also be that what you’re doing is legitimately enough, even if it’s not perfect, and that your boss isn’t wrong to be happy with it.

Also, what you’ve experienced in this job is very much par for the course in some nonprofits. It happens in other sectors too, but it’s especially common in nonprofits, which often have limited resources and a “we’ll just need to figure it out” approach. Often nonprofits can’t afford the person with 10 years of experience and a proven track record in X, so they hire the person with less experience and not much track record in X but who has intelligence and drive and the resourcefulness to figure things out — or at least to figure things out to a “good enough” point. Nonprofits are very familiar with “good enough,” because they have to be.

There can be good things about that! It can mean that you can get opportunities you wouldn’t get elsewhere, and if you’re enterprising and driven often you can figure things out (which could include asking for specific trainings that you think will help you). Some people love working like that! But others don’t, and can end up feeling like you do now — untrained and unsupported and frustrated. It just depends on your own work style and preferences (and on how far to the edge of that spectrum any particular job falls).

But this is a pretty theoretical discussion. What matters for you is that you’re unhappy in this job … and you don’t need to stay in it! Whether or not your boss should have trained you more is beside the point now that you’re five years in. You can just decide this isn’t working well for you, you don’t like it, and you’re going to move on.

That’s okay to decide at any point, but deciding it after five years is especially understandable! That’s a good long stay and a time when many people would be thinking about moving on anyway. If the job is making you feel stressed/unhappy/inadequate, decide you’ve done enough there and free yourself to move on to something new!

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. Madame X*

    OP, I think you are being a bit hard on yourself. Even, if you have correctly assessed that you are not as proficient as you need to be in some parts of your job, it’s not entirely your fault if there was not enough training or support for you to perform better.

    1. Generic Name*

      I agree. Your employer is happy with your performance! Sure, maybe you could do a bit better with some formal training, but your employer may have decided that the payoff isn’t worth it for them to pay for training. Sometimes “good enough” is all that is needed. :) That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with deciding that you’d like to move to another job. You do not need an airtight case of sound reasons as to why you want to move on. Just wanting to is enough reason!

      1. Sloanicota*

        This reads like someone who is very rules-oriented and isn’t comfortable working at a place like this nonprofit where, as Alison says, “good enough” has to be good enough sometimes. Most of the nonprofits I have worked at are aware they are not able to offer competitive wages, and some have struggled to even cover adequate benefits – they realize someone with expertise in all the infinite areas they’d like, wouldn’t work for them under those conditions. So OP is the only one who is unsatisfied, but the org is actually happy with the work they’re getting.

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          This is a good point, and I can totally get it if this is where OP is coming from. I was definitely raised in a “perfection should always be your goal, never settle for less than your best” mindset and it’s taken a lot of hard work to unlearn that. Sometimes good enough is just that – good enough! The tradeoff for perfection isn’t always worth it, and it can be hard to see that if you were the kid who had to have 37 pieces of flair or else be seen as/felt like a failure (even if 15 would have been fine and getting the extra pieces drained you).

          There’s nothing wrong with wanting to always do the absolute best if it makes you happy, but as you said, a company that operates in the “good enough” might not be the place for OP if that’s the case.

  2. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Apprenticeship models are also very common in nonprofits, where you might not receive “training” but you’ll work with someone more experienced and do work together as you improve. I mean you had to have learned how to do your job at some point, right? You’ve been doing it for five years. Just because you didn’t sit through a formal instruction doesn’t mean you weren’t trained. You either self taught or went through on-the-job training of some kind. That’s very common in a lot of places.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think OP could have (still could) ask to shadow someone who is doing the job well, if they wanted. Not every nonprofit will pay for trainings, but in addition to free trainings that OP should seek out – and pursue scholarships for – there are often mentorship opportunities. I would feel differently if OP had written this letter six months is, but after five years I’m a bit surprised that training is what she wants.

  3. DCompliance*

    If you are talking about processes you are responsible for and don’t know, is is possible to get those created? Can you sit down with your boss or an employee and say “we need to document our process/policy together in case someone goes on vacation; lets get an SOP created.”

    If you are talking about skills like management or public speaking, at least after 5 years, you know what the job entails. So you can tell your boss, “I want to do even better in these areas, what training can you recommend?”

    1. Captain Swan*

      In my job, there was no training. I spent three days with the person covering my position learning the major areas of the job and that was pretty much it. (And I have 20 years experience and it’s a managerial position). After the initial 3 days, I asked people questions, read any available documents, and just kind of ‘faked it until I made it’. Now 5 years later, I refined systems, developed new systems, and am considered something of an expert and never once did I have formal training about my job.

      1. t-vex*

        Same! I spent 10 years at the company and moved into more and more responsibility. My next job entailed lots of consulting for other orgs because of the broad range of experience I gained.
        (I also did a lot of self-directed learning – if there was something I didn’t know how to do I figured out what I would need to do to find out, then did that.)

  4. Julia*

    This letter could’ve been written by me. I also spent five years at a nonprofit without the necessary skills to do my job and it really affected my self-esteem. I think there was a lot of shame wrapped up in it too, because I felt like I *should* be able to do the job – I actually had a relevant technical degree. But I had been severely depressed during school and hadn’t retained much, so I was really behind in the necessary skills. The nonprofit didn’t train me, and after five years I didn’t know that much more than when I’d started.

    I still don’t know why I never caught on, but I think it might be partly because that wasn’t my field. I wasn’t passionate about it. I ended up going to school for something completely different and discovered that in fact I am smart, resourceful, competent, and driven to learn – this environment brings all of that out of me, whereas the old environment just made me feel terrible about myself. Keep trying different things, LW. You’ll find what’s right for you.

    1. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Any possibility or degree of imposter syndrome happening here? I’m just not getting how after 5 years, you don’t think you performed the job adequately…. 5 weeks sure, 5 months maybe, but 5 years! That is a really long time.

      1. Julia*

        Haha, well, you nailed me. I do have a tendency to be hard on myself and may not have a totally objective view of my past – that sort of thing is common in people with depression as I’m sure you know.

        I left out all the detail – but for the first half of those five years I was doing other jobs at that nonprofit, and then I worked my way into software development by expressing an interest. I started debugging some of their legacy software, which I knew really well because of my years working with it in other roles. I suppose I was valuable to them because I knew a lot about how their legacy software worked and was the only one to spend a bunch of time digging into it – so I wasn’t as bad as I’m implying. I often could figure out problems no one else could.

        But I just never got good at actual software development beyond basic Python scripts (and I was a poor employee in other ways, absenteeism and procrastination). I’m not objective, I know, but I feel like there was some mismanagement involved in letting me stay until I quit for grad school. I can understand why they did, but now, as a professional adult, I wouldn’t do the same with someone I managed.

        Whew. Probably nobody will read this, but it felt good to revisit and wipe out some of the shame. Thanks for the new perspective.

        1. Allonge*

          Looking back I am sure you will also recognise that the manager had no perfect choice: there was firing you and trying to find someone who may be better (but this takes time and energy and there is no foolproof way) or working with you, even if you are not perfect (like literally everyone else on the planet).

          Firing you may have worked out better for you, sure, but that cannot be on the manager to figure out.

          Anyway, I am glad you are in a better place now!

    2. hbc*

      I’m with My Useless Two Cents here–how does this even work? I’d love an example of what inadequacy or failure looks like to you. Are you supposed to put together a pivot table of each month’s donor data and you just…haven’t been able to do it for 60 months straight and had someone else cover? Just never put together a perfect one? Think it should take 15 minutes but it takes you 2 hours? Do 90% of the work organizing data and then your boss always has to do the final bit of graph creation because you can never remember how to finish it?

      When it comes down to it, your manager decides what’s adequate. Even if you literally haven’t done that report for 60 months but they’re not riding you about it, you’re apparently adequate. Separate out “doing an adequate job” from “not meeting my own personal standards” or “more struggle than I want in a job” or whatever.

      1. Koalafied*

        I held a job for 2 years and some change that was hard on my self esteem because I wasn’t great at about half of my core duties. But because I was very good at about half of the core responsibilities and wasn’t grossly incompetent at the other parts it didn’t quite rise to the level of firing me.

        What it looked like was I procrastinated the tasks in my weak areas. As a result I often completed them late, or with careless errors caused by rushing through them at the last minute, or both. My boss eventually started micromanaging all my work in that area because she didn’t think I had enough attention to detail.

        I still got generally good reviews every year because of how well I was doing the other half of the job, but because I made so many mistakes and missed so many deadlines in my weak area I never felt like I could make a case for a raise or ask to spend time on professional development. So for two and a half years I just sort of languished, not really in danger of being fired but not going anywhere, and my self esteem taking a large beating the whole time.

  5. cubone*

    I felt like this for YEARS in nonprofits. Only after leaving did I realize how much I had learned/was learning/that nobody else knew anyways.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think it’s easy to assume that SOMEBODY knows how to do this, and that this hidden knowledge being revealed to you would make some kind of difference – but honestly, most of the nonprofits I’ve worked at, nobody knows how to do all the things that need to be done, *in the circumstances of the organization* (eg lack of budget and capacity). There may be some well heeled individual expert somewhere in each particular thing, but their technique probably requires resources that OP doesn’t have access to. People who make a career in nonprofit generally find a way to get comfortable with doing their best under the circumstances and moving on.

      1. Koalafied*

        A really useful framework for me in this context is always trying to prioritize work according to its relative value and cost. There will always be more work than we can do, more ideas than we can implement. There is an opportunity cost to everything – every hour spent working on one project is an hour not spent on something else, so what is the highest and best use of the donation-supported salary my nonprofit employer pays me and any other staff on this project?

        In a lot of cases, the ROI on getting something from good to great is just not there. I’d feel more pride in my work, sure. But if I can produce something ok with $3,000 worth of value in 4 hours or spend 8 hours on it, many it great, and get it up to $4,000 of value, my nonprofit would rather I not double the labor cost of the project to get just 33% more value.

  6. SZ*

    I have encountered this at multiple nonprofits: where predecessors don’t leave any documentation or guides, your supervisor does not understand the position, or there’s no funding available for professional development/job training. You’re sort of just “siloed” into your role and you hope you pick it up as you go.

  7. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    Non-profits are notorious for being understaffed, underpaid and under trained. Don’t beat yourself up because they are asking you to do things they have not trained you for. It is worth going to your boss and asking if you can attend trainings so that you can get the training you need, or to have a mentor at work to help you in the areas you feel you are least prepared for.

    1. Carol the happy elf*

      I had a professor who called nonprofits “meat grinders”, and was VERY disparaging about most of them. (This was in an ethics class, and this drive was that levelling your ethics means taking honest care of yourself as well.)
      My takeaway from official training is that you have an established course, assignments, a timeline, and a syllabus. Usually, there’s an appendix with further helps and references. When you come out at the end, you have official recognition, and the fear of figuring out all the probables is minimized.
      In other words, “You don’t need a brain, Scarecrow. You need a certificate.” This professor showed us the scene in “Wizard of Oz” where the wizard, (a fraud!) explained that what the characters were each missing was a symbol of competence and validation. After that, they could internalize and self-validate their own accomplishments and achievements.
      Oh, and kill evil witches with a bucket of water, and get home using powers they already had.
      He said that once a quarter, he looks back and counts the steps he has walked, and is surprised at his progress, in other areas than he had thought.
      Your “meat-grinder” seems pleased with your work- and you. Can you get together with a team of equals and create your own training and certification? And sign off on what you produce, with a boss’ authority so it’s official?
      It seems that as long as you feel there’s a gap in your competence, you will see the gap in your field of vision no matter where you look.
      You’re not an imposter, you’re good-normal. Give yourself permission to fill the gap that only you can see.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I agree with Anastasia, if you want to stay, ask if you can do some training. Look for a training you think would help you and ask if you can take it.

  8. KHB*

    Some jobs are niche enough that there really isn’t any training you can get to do that exact thing, and the only way to learn how to do it is to do it. The working world isn’t like school, where there’s never anything on the exam that wasn’t covered in class, and where the metrics of success and failure are clear-cut.

    1. BubbleTea*

      This is my exact job. You might have experience in one part (let’s say llama grooming). You might have experience in the other part (ballroom dance instruction). But there’s nowhere else in the country teaching llamas to waltz, so we know that new hires on the project will have to be trained extensively.

      I didn’t have experience in either, as it happens. I’d taught otters to swim, and I showed enough enthusiasm for the concept of llamas and waltzing that they decided to hire me and we’d figure it out. The key thing is that they *trained* me.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        My job in manufacturing is kind of like that. It involves a very niche area of the construction industry. It is highly unlikely that anyone applying for jobs here has experience in niche area let alone our little branch of niche area. Extensive training will be required to do my job. Unfortunately owner seems to think we can find a unicorn who can plop in a seat and start turning out product after one tour of the shop. Result is chronic understaffing :(

    2. What She Said*

      This is how I feel about my job. Sure I can do some training on some items but the truth is it’s a small portion of my job. I do make notes where I can in the event someone ever takes over a task but there is no official training you can do to do this work.

  9. Antilles*

    But it could also be that what you’re doing is legitimately enough, even if it’s not perfect, and that your boss isn’t wrong to be happy with it.
    Especially if the parts of your job you’re best at happen to overlap with the most critical tasks.
    It’s be nice to have someone who’s stellar in everything, but lacking that, I’ll take an employee who’s A+ in the important tasks even if you’re a C- in other stuff.

    1. Tupac Coachella*

      This is a really good point. There’s also a fair chance that you’re being compensated as a “good enough” employee. They may have hired you knowing that someone who was an A+ in all parts of the job was out of their price range, but you would be strong in the areas that mattered, so it’s a compromise they felt good about. I don’t see anything wrong with looking for a job that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re not ever going to be a superstar, but I agree with Alison and the other commenters that you may be being a little hard on yourself.

      (Apologies for any offense, OP; I know “you get what you pay for” is a bit of a glib approach here, and I don’t mean to be. Sometimes there’s a cost savings to the employer if they’re willing to prioritize, which is a business decision, not a negative statement on you as a person or an employee. You became the right fit for their needs in a way that may not be as apparent from your side.)

  10. Daisy-dog*

    You may know more than you think. I have learned in-the-moment many, many things in all of my roles. Sometimes I think that I don’t know anything about a certain requirement of my job because I can’t give a stand-up training on the topic or regurgitate facts about it off-hand. But when I’m in the moment or get asked a question about the how-to (not the full picture), I can handle it just fine. I wish I knew more, but I can manage what is required for the role.

    In my ideal world, I would have gotten actual training on all tasks involved with my role, but knowing just enough to get the job done is really all that is needed.

    1. Agile Phalanges*

      I never realized how much I knew about a job I was six months into until one person left and another person was hired, and I had to explain history and background and why we do things the convoluted way we do them. If you’re still the newest person on a given team, it’s easy to still feel like you don’t know much, because you’re never in the position of being “the knowledgeable one.”

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        True! I remember being the newbie and feeling that my lack of perfection was dangerous to people who counted on me. I felt that I was barely competent and a liability to those who had to work around my lack of knowledge.
        There were many things I COULD do, so that became my focus, until the day someone asked a question, and a coworker said, “Ask Carol; she practically wrote the book, and she can even give you the history of that.” I was shocked to hear that, coming from someone who seemed to question my every word. Then realized that the subject was one I could give expert instruction in- and the coworker wasn’t QUESTIONING my knowledge, she was USING my knowledge.
        I floated home that day.

  11. OnetoFindTheGiraffe*

    I could have asked this question too! I’m three years in to a job I’m leaving (currently am in my two-week notice period) and one of the things I’ve really struggled with is realizing how little I was trained in the beginning and how little ongoing training I ever received. I feel hugely guilty about things that didn’t get done or didn’t get done well, and then I remind myself that the first nine months I had a boss who literally didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing (“I don’t understand your job and don’t know what it entails,” he told me, often). Then I had a interim supervisor who wasn’t official so couldn’t/wouldn’t give me guidance, and only in the last year have I had a supervisor who actually… supervises.

    All this to say, I get it, OP! I am kicking myself for the things I’m still discovering three years in. “How could I not have known?” I say to myself, and then I have to remember—well, nobody trained me. They can’t get mad at me for not knowing if nobody every trained me.

    It’s a weird place to be in for sure. I hope your new role is better about this!

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Also happened to me, but in local government. I am also in my notice period, after 4.5 years, really hating that I still feel inadequate/incompetent because so much of my group’s work is technical matter that I have never done/never been trained on/no time to train.

  12. Let me librarian that for you*

    Putting a word in here for professional development and networking groups! In my nonprofit career, I’ve never had an employer offer formal training on anything – I have always had to seek it out myself when I identified gaps in my knowledge or skills. There’s an association out there for everything, and most organizations do (or should) have some budget for professional development (even nonprofits). They’re also a great way to network. Look for more informal opportunities too – groups that don’t necessarily have credentialing, but are places people share experiential learning. I’m part of a nonprofit marketing group that’s been a game changer.

    1. Unaccountably*

      I’ve worked in profit and nonprofit both, and although companies will usually pay for external seminars and CE courses, I’ve never gotten formal on-the-job training in any white-collar position I’ve ever worked in. Companies just don’t do it anymore. Professional development and networking groups are a great idea.

    2. Snuck*


      Your employer obviously saw you had enough skills to start in the job, and you’ve done well while you are there. The onus of training isn’t always entirely on the employer – it is actually on us, the employees, to also maintain and develop our skill sets, particularly when we meet minimum requirements for getting a job, but want to move beyond the minimum.

      I suspect you are being very hard on yourself! You had enough to get the job, and now can move forward with more, but next time assume that if they’ve employed you they actually think you have the starting skills. Then build on those and depending on your job role, it might well be up to you to build it more than the company provide training. If you are in a people facing role, where much of it is soft skills, situational awareness and communication then no training book in the world is going to answer all your questions, and thus it’s on you. It sounds like you’ve done fairly well though!

  13. Unaccountably*

    I think so much of this depends on what you’re doing that it’s hard to answer. Running a machine that could cut your fingers off? Providing counseling/case management/crisis intervention? Dealing with legal or regulatory issues? Those things require training. Figuring out how a specific spreadsheet used by your company works, or how spreadsheets work in general? Working with a filing system? Learning to do specialized tasks in a programming language you’re already familiar with? It’s not unreasonable to expect that you’ll figure that stuff out for yourself.

    I had a colleague many years ago – and I’m not saying you’re like this, I’m saying if you are, it’s something to be aware of – who drove the rest of us nuts by complaining constantly that she hadn’t been “trained” on some spreadsheet or technique or other that didn’t require training in any way we as individual contributors understood. What she really meant was that she wanted someone to stand in her cubicle and talk her through the spreadsheet’s functions and listen while she talked her way out loud through what she was doing, and wow, were we the wrong crowd. We didn’t know how to help her because none of us knew what it was she needed to have explained to her; we’d all just sat down on our first day on the job and tinkered with it for ten or fifteen minutes.

    So maybe you could think about what tasks you feel untrained on -> what would that training look like -> who would do the training -> what increase in your performance or efficiency would result? Even if you decide that this job just doesn’t make you feel good about yourself and you want to leave it, it might be worthwhile to work through that process at your new job so you can ask your supervisor about training right away.

    1. Unaccountably*

      By way of clarification, the point of my story about my co-worker is that in many cases – especially in understaffed departments or companies – there’s no one who has time or bandwidth to serve in a teaching role. If that specific form of training is something you feel like you need, the time to discuss that is probably at the interview.

      1. Kella*

        I think this story and advice is very out of sync with what Alison was saying. Your coworker was not unreasonable for wanting training in something she didn’t feel comfortable figuring out on her own. If she got a clear answer that no one was available to give her that training, and continued complaining about it anyway, then that would be a mistake on her part. But if she only received avoidance and eye rolls to asking for something she needed, I don’t really blame her for persisting in not intuiting that it wasn’t something that would ever be available to her.

        I also disagree that it’s on a job candidate to specifically ask if that kind of training is available. I think it’s on the employer to communicate that it’s the kind of job where you’re expected to figure certain things out on your own, and if an employer hires someone who can’t do that, it’s on the employer to figure out how to address that mismatch, instead of allowing the employee to continue struggling and floundering, or worse, being annoyed with that employee for not figuring it out without being told to.

        1. Unaccountably*

          I have to disagree with basically all of that.

          First, as I said, there was no “training” for using a spreadsheet. It’s not like it existed and was being withheld from her. In the entire history of the department, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever received formal training from another person on how to use this spreadsheet. She was told this over and over, she had been with the department long enough to realize that literally no one received the kind of training she wanted, and she still complained. This was a grown woman who was fully capable of figuring out that if she’d complained 60 times about not getting training, and no training was ever forthcoming, training would not magically materialize on the 61st complaint. That doesn’t require any great degree of intuition to figure out.

          Second, as multiple people have said, almost no jobs actually offer that kind of training. In ALL jobs you are expected to figure out things on your own. Needing someone in a teacher role to give you formal training is so far out of the norm for any kind of skilled-labor or knowledge-work position that in a way it’s like requesting an ADA accommodation: it might just not be possible to need that and still be able to fulfill the basic duties of the job. Being able to learn on your own is as much a baseline workplace expectation as being able to come to work every day without your boss calling to remind you.

          And no, it’s not reasonable to expect managers – who have other work to do and other people to manage – to teach grown men and women how to figure things out for themselves. That is a baseline life skill that people are assumed to have before they enter the workforce. I am not qualified to teach people how to think; what I am qualified to do is fire them and hire someone who *can* figure things out for themselves, just like everyone else in the company has to.

          1. Kella*

            Given it sounds like she only asked for this specific kind of training on this one task, it very well could have been an ADA accommodations situation, and she didn’t know it. There are many learning disabilities, and cognitive processing disorders that would affect this kind of task and go completely undiagnosed in adults. I’m not saying you should’ve figured that out for her, just that it doesn’t sound like she was incapable of figuring things out in all aspects of her job, just this one. And someone needing a specific kind of training for a specific task doesn’t make them inherently incompetent or unreasonable.

            As I already said in my first comment, if the problem was that she continually asked for a type of training that wasn’t available, received a clear answer, and she kept asking, then *that’s* the problem that needed to be addressed. And as I said below, if she was allowed to keep a problem that should’ve been resolved, open by this continuing complaining, that’s an unaddressed performance problem, which is a management problem.

      2. Beth*

        The bigger lesson I’m taking from this story is, ‘training’ isn’t actually a clear-cut concept and it’s easy to have miscommunications if you assume it is. Your coworker expected that training for your role would mean someone walking her through tasks and materials at least once before she was expected to navigate them on her own–not an inherently unreasonable assumption! The rest of you, on the other hand, expected that training for your role would be her sitting down at her computer and tinkering with materials until she felt comfortable. That’s also not an unreasonable model, but a very different one from her expectation.

        The situation sounds frustrating on all sides. On the one hand she’s sitting there like “I keep asking for training, why won’t anyone help me?” and on the other hand the rest of you are sitting there like “She keeps complaining about training, what’s she been doing with the time we’re giving her for it?” But the root of that is really a disconnect about what ‘training’ is in this role. If your manager had explicitly told her on day 1 that the training procedure was for her to poke around at these spreadsheets for a while and figure them out on her own, I wonder if that would have prevented some of the complaining.

        1. Beth*

          And to apply this to OP’s situation–I can definitely see how not getting the training experience you expected can undermine your confidence and leave you unsure about your level of knowledge! But if you’ve been there for years, your manager is happy with your work, and you’re getting good reviews, then maybe the problem isn’t your skills or knowledge. Maybe it’s just that you expected a more certain, fixed training process, while your boss was aiming for a more ad-hoc, “figure it out as it comes up,” flexible type of training. It sounds like the problem here is not your actual work quality; you’re clearly figuring out the job well enough to meet expectations. The problem is that this training process has been stressful for you. Would reminding yourself that it’s clearly succeeded–you’ve been doing the job successfully, so it must have succeeded–help you gain some confidence in your ability?

          1. BethDH*

            Also, one thing that training does is give you some tools to be able to evaluate your work and know what good even is. It sounds like OP doesn’t have this. Boss does, even if boss couldn’t do OP’s tasks.
            In other words, OP needs a rubric for what an “A” project looks like, not just to get the good grade.

        2. hbc*

          While a good manager can and will anticipate certain challenges, I think it’s on the person needing help to be more specific. “I need training” is nearly useless. “I don’t even know where to get started on this spreadsheet” or “what are the fields I’m supposed to be modifying?” or “I think I need an overview, I’ve literally never used this database program before” are so much better.

          1. Unaccountably*

            Yes, exactly. Those are all specific things we could easily have helped with. But she wanted soup-to-nuts, someone tell me what to do from the minute I open the spreadsheet to the minute I close it again, verbal instructions and we just couldn’t accommodate her.

        3. Unaccountably*

          Well… no, it would not have prevented the complaining, but not for relevant reasons. And she *was* explicitly told – by him, by me, by many people – that the spreadsheet was self-explanatory and she just needed to work with it but she could come to us with specific questions if she needed to. That was an unacceptable answer – only Training would do.

          However, the thing to keep in mind here is that this woman had been with the department for at least five years before I even got there, working on different contracts that did not use this particular spreadsheet. She’d seen staff turnover. She sat in a cubicle farm amidst the new and old hires. *No one,* at her position or any other above or below it, had *ever* gotten the kind of training she was asking for, on this spreadsheet or any other spreadsheet or (documented) procedure.

          So it’s more like she’s going “I keep asking for training, why won’t anyone help me,” and we’re like “We literally do not know how to help you because there is no ‘training’ the way you want it and we’re all putting in 50-hour weeks so no, no one can spend two hours standing behind you in your cubicle and telling you what cell to put the cursor in, please just read the documentation and just make an *attempt* to figure out the spreadsheet for yourself.” If she’d specified at the interview that she needed formal 1:1 training for new procedures, she probably wouldn’t have gotten the job and much annoyance could have been avoided by everyone.

        4. Kella*

          Yes, I totally agree. Having someone sit with you and watch you do something and talk you through every step is one kind of training (and it’s a form of training that I have offered my coworkers in basically every job I’ve ever had). Being given a basic overview of your goals and the tools you need to use is another. Being given documentation and told to come to X person with questions is another. There’s nothing wrong with wanting one version of training instead of the other ones, it’s just a question of whether that form of training is available or not. And if it isn’t, and the employee has already been informed that it isn’t, then something needs to be addressed with them so they stop asking for something they’ve already been given an answer about, while still making sure they are able to do the job they’ve been hired to do. Someone continuing to complain about an issue that was supposed to be resolved is also a performance problem, and a long-term unaddressed performance problem is a management problem.

  14. OyHiOh*

    I didn’t realize how much I’d learned at OldJob, until NewJob offered me a salary solidly in the middle of their posted range, and said I brought unique skills to the role.

    Like others commenting, I recently spent a couple years in an understaffed, underfunded non profit. I learned, on the job and by the seat of my pants, a ton of stuff I didn’t know I knew until this week.

  15. Green Goose*

    My sister recently had a disastrous experience with a job that she needed a lot of training on but got none. She was hired at a very large company that’s trying to have everything lateral (even though in reality it isn’t but makes it extra confusing for new people) and the woman who hired her was great and knew my sister was coming in very, very green. But my sister was not going to be working with that woman and the actual team she came into was very slammed and needed someone with a lot more experience than my sister had. So the training my sister was expecting did not match up with what she received.
    Now when looking for work she asks for specifics on what training looks like in interviews. Because “you’ll be trained” can mean different things to different people.

  16. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    Another perspective to consider – if your boss is happy with your work, and you’re asking for more formal training, your boss may not feel that’s worth investing in. And that could be a legitimate call! As a director at a nonprofit I currently have a staff member pushing for training in an area where they’re getting fine results, but it isn’t a priority for the mission. The training they want is a $5,000 investment with probably $50k in opportunity costs for them spending time on that instead of just doing the basics of their job at a good enough level.

    Of course, your boss should be willing to invest in your development in some capacity, but if they’re saying “nope this specific training/skill isn’t the thing we can spend time/money on right now,” that isn’t necessarily an unstrategic choice.

    If you haven’t gone to them with “this is the specific training I need, it will cost $x dollars and take X hours of my time and have X benefit for the organization” then that could be worth a shot. Your manager may not know as well as you do what you need or want, and may be stretched too thin to figure it out.

    Of course none of that matters if this setup just isn’t for you – I’d never hold it against a member of my team for leaving over something like this. It works for some folks but not for everyone.

  17. bamcheeks*

    Good heavens, five years is an extraordinarily long time to feel stressed and incompetent, OP. Run! Run four years ago!

  18. Spearmint*

    Something to keep in mind as well is that in smaller and underfunded organizations, everyone basically had to figure it out on their own. Your predecessor may not have performed any better than you do now. The reality is that smaller and underfunded organizations are rarely able to be at the cutting edge or implement best practices.

  19. anonymous73*

    OP you’ve done nothing wrong so the first thing you need to do is stop beating yourself up about it. You say you’ve asked for training on some things, but have you had a big picture conversation with your manager about all of it? I think that’s where you need to start. It may not change anything, but if you can picture yourself being happy with more knowledge about your specific job tasks it may be worth asking and sticking it out. Of course after 5 years if you’re past that point and just want to move on, that’s okay too. You have to do what’s best for you. Good luck!

  20. Mimmy*

    You are about where I’m at now. I’ve been working as a part-time instructor with blind and visually impaired adults for a bit over 5 years despite zero training in teaching this population. I teach a specific skill, and I’ve been able to figure it out along the way and have gotten excellent feedback. However, I constantly think about how much better I’d be had they invested in training or mentoring (this is at a state-run voc rehab training center, so I’m not too surprised).

    Alison is right in that 5 years is a good length of stay at one job. I don’t think anyone is going to think negatively of you looking to move on. I’m beginning the process of looking for new employment myself.

    Best of luck to you!

  21. Ann O'Nemity*

    This matches my nonprofit experience so well. I wore a lot of hats. I was a jack of all trades and master of none. My expertise was a mile wide and an inch deep. I got used to “figure it out” and settled for being “good enough.”

    It wasn’t easy on my self-esteem! I stayed longer than I should have because I was worried that my experience was too general and not specialized enough. Turns out it was easy to get another job! My nonprofit experience gave me an entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen. I found it very easy to collaborate across teams because I had basic understanding of so many different business functions.

  22. Tuesday*

    Others have touched on this, but just because you might be doing the job well enough for your bosses, it doesn’t feel great to be flying by the seat of your pants all the time. It’s also hard to apply for a new job that requires skills in those areas if you’ve never been formally trained on them and might not be doing them to industry standards.
    I can understand why you’d want to move on to something you can feel more confident about, even if everyone is happy with the work you’re doing. Best of luck, OP!

    1. Work dreams*

      Exactly this. IMO, this is the essence of the issue. I feel very similar to the OP and am constantly questioning whether the process I’ve made up (since I wasn’t trained) is efficient and streamlined for everyone involved, I’m worried about stepping on toes, concerned when asking questions that I’m wasting people’s time….this means I overthink/overwork every project, I talk to my husband constantly about being anxious, send myself emails in the evenings when I come up with a new idea on how to improve something, dream about work…I don’t care if my supervisor thinks I’m doing a good job, it’s way more than 40 hours of work doing that “good job” and I’m often anxious and stressed outside the workday.

      I’m constantly disappointed in management and onboarding processes. Most managers are also individual contributors and don’t have bandwidth to train effectively. It’s incredibly hard to ask for support from someone who is as underwater as you are.

      1. misspiggy*

        This seems to be the crux of the problem. If people are underwater, e.g. through workload or lack of training, that is a strategic decision by leadership. Or leadership is incompetent.

        In that situation, feeling you must work in a high quality way is asking the impossible of yourself. Any achievement or improvement is something to celebrate, and to impress a future, more functional employer with.

  23. Free Meerkats*

    LW, you asked for training, but did you proactively seek out training that would have helped you and present it to your boss with, “Here’s the type of training that would help me do this part of my job.”, or did you just voice the you needed training?

    I see a lot of “the boss should have seen I needed the training and sent me.” in your letter. It’s probable that your boss doesn’t know how to do your job, so wouldn’t recognize the deficiencies you see. Lard knows, my bosses have no idea how to do my job and wouldn’t have a clue if I were struggling unless I told them.

    1. ---*

      The OP explicitly says she’s asked for training, but that’s actually a little beside the point.

      OP, I want you to know I feel you so hard on this. I also started a job almost a year ago that was going to be a stretch in some ways, and my manager and I both acknowledged that at the interview itself (new subject area). He still hired me. But then, he never gave me the requisite background knowledge, context, or resources for self-learning that I needed to *really* get up to speed. In fact, he never once asked me how I felt the job was going, despite my having some very frank conversations with him about what I felt / needed. I have spent ten months straining, feeling discouraged, and like I’m lagging behind.

      My point is this: is it 100% a manager’s job to 1) check in with what their report needs; 2) suggest how they could grow in the job and what additional development would be useful, whether the report has the ability to know what they don’t know or not.

      Don’t put this all on OP, Meerkats. Good managers actually manage. I know this, because mine never did.

    2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I read LW as saying, they didn’t know what training to ask for/how to go about getting it. I totally agree with —, managers need to manage and it’s unrealistic to expect employees to know how to solve every problem, especially big ones like this.

  24. Nikara*

    It took me several years working in government to realize that “good enough for government work” wasn’t necessarily an insult. It acknowledges the constraints faced in that sort of job- staffing challenges, policies that limit you, not enough time to finish, etc. The same can be very true in non-profits. A part of maturing in my job was realizing when it really matters that something is perfect, and when good enough suffices. It sounds like you may have been good enough in places where perfection wasn’t demanded. And that is totally okay.

  25. Hall or Billingham*

    OP, I grappled (and sometimes still grapple) with these kinds of feelings of inadequacy, which I also found would become a self-fulling prophecy–I’d be anxious about failing so I’d procrastinate and then my work product wouldn’t be as high quality as it could have been, then I’d have “proof” that I was actually bad at my job. And the high ratings I got from supervisors were whispers compared to how loud the voices telling me I was a failure were.

    I’m glad you’re seeking a new job–you don’t deserve to feel this way all the time (for five years!)–you don’t deserve to feel this way at all! What I will say also helped me tremendously was connecting to a mental health counselor and getting on anti-anxiety medication, because so much of what I was dealing with was untreated anxiety. Your mileage may vary and I’m absolutely not attempting to diagnose anything! But I wonder if finding someone who can help you revise some of the mental scripts you have about yourself being underqualified might go a long way, especially as you pursue new opportunities. I wish you all the best!

  26. Alan*

    I work in a matrix organization (science-oriented non-profit) and found myself without work at one point. I was fairly desperate so when someone said “Can you do x?” I immediately agreed. It was the worst 12+ months of my career. I asked questions as much as I could reasonably do, and figured the rest out as well as I could on my own, but I never shook the feeling that I was a waste of space, and I produced very little real work. The minute I found a position in my field I jumped on it. Ironically, when I told my project manager that I was leaving, she told me that my team lead thought I was doing a terrific job, they were sorry I was leaving, and I should come back anytime I felt like it. I was a blur going out the door. I can only conclude that bad as I was, I was better than others. Or that their standards were *really* low.

  27. SpecialSpecialist*

    One thing that might help you feel better is to document your processes and the things you’ve learned, both for your own reference benefit and as something you can take with you, but also to help break the cycle so that the next person in your position has a better 1st year experience. I extensively documented my first and second job where I was pretty much thrown in an office and told to figure out the mess left by my predecessors. I did get specific training in our electronic records system and our organization’s specific purchasing/equipment/HR/payroll processes, but other than that it was up to me to figure out how to run my own office and get what I needed to get from other people. Most of my early documentation was just so that I could refer back to things, but by the time I left I had comprehensive SOPs written out for doing my jobs. Putting it down on paper proved to myself that I knew what I was doing and I was darn good at it.

  28. Person from the Resume*

    I got the job and after five years I am sadly looking for other jobs. I wear many different hats and there are too many parts of my job that are important that I have received zero training on. I feel like a horrible employee, but I receive very good annual reviews.

    First of all if you’ve been at a job for 5 years and never been happy, it’s long past time to go. If you’ve been at a job for 5 years and are no longer happy or challenged, it’s time to look around. There is no reason you should expect to be doing the exact same job or even be with the same company after 5 years. It also sounds like your job is stressing you out so you should probably move on. There’s no shame in leaving after a 5 year stint, but it sounds like you’ve been successful in your job.

    However it doesn’t make sense to me that you’re saying the reason you’re leaving NOW is that you didn’t get training when you were hired 5 years and despite good annual reviews and no complaints from your boss. Do you possibly have imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon do not believe they deserve their success or luck. Good annual reviews and no mention of frequent negative feedback from you boss points to you succeeding well-enough in your job. Your judgement of your performance is not aligned with how your organization is judging you.

    You don’t exactly mention what you do and what areas you’re struggling with, but going away for training only works for certain types of things like general topics/skills/products; it won’t be available for how to perform the complete, uniquely particular process at your organization. I’m wondering if you wanted training more formal than was available or more formal than your boss thought you needed. If you’re the only person doing your job and your predecessor left and your boss doesn’t know how he did things, then you may have to figure it or teach yourself. And after 5 years, I’d have expected that you would have figured out most things enough to feel like you’re at least muddling through. Do you want a kind of formal training that’s just not available for your job tasks?

    If you were fairly new and struggling I’d ask you if you had identified the particular training you thought you needed and asked for it? If you did and your boss refused, did you understand why? I go back to at this point, he thinks you’re performing well enough. Is he wrong? Are your expectations for your performance too high? Is your assessment of your performance to harsh and driven by your own internal doubts and a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a incompetent?

  29. pocketgnome*

    Not entirely the same, but I just got hired for a remote position and they have basically left me to train myself and I’m feeling so lost and defeated and lazy. I have no idea what I’m supposed to even be doing most days and trust me, I’ve asked my manager a million times. I’m so worried the are going to think I’m a slacker and fire me. I’ve thought about leaving, but I really want to do well and advance in the field. I’m normally a bit of an overachiever, but this has left me feeling like I’m a failure, so I know how much it sucks, OP.

    1. Trawna*

      Nah. They just hired you. They’re more afraid of you quitting, than you are likely to quit. Ask lots more questions (maybe request a buddy so you aren’t asking your manager all the time), and read deeply into all onboarding materials and the intranet. It’ll start to make sense.

    2. Elle*

      I’m so afraid this is how the new hires my team has feel. We have a ton starting at once and I’m a brand-new manager and I’m terrified we as management will not get them the support they need. All I can say is they are totally failing you- it’s not you! I hope you start getting the support you need soon and it works out.

  30. Trawna*

    I’m willing to bet that you do know what you’re doing. I’m also wiling to bet that your insecurity about this has partly to do with not having the correct terminology and background theory to express yourself within the industry. I suggest backing up and taking an introductory course or two about NGOs/philanthropy/specific cause/etc. so that you confirm that you know your stuff, and can make your case with respect to projects at your current work and as you move on to other jobs.

  31. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — I’m go to assume you’re a woman, because I’ve seen too many women fall into this kind of thinking: “Formal training is always superior to on-the-job learning, and since I don’t have formal training, I must be unqualified for my job.”

    But your boss thinks you’re doing fine. If you start writing up documentation for how to do your job (a good thing to do, anyway, if you’re starting a job search), I think you’ll find that you’ve learned an awful lot about your job just by doing it. Give yourself credit for that.

    In most of my jobs, we’ve learned new systems by messing around until we got them to go. Somebody would discover a cool new workaround, then share it with the rest of the team. Knowledge was built, rather than installed through “formal training.”

    You’ve been in your present job for five years and it sounds like it’s never been a fit. So yes, start looking for your next position, but please don’t revert to assuming that you should only apply for jobs where you have 100% of the listed qualifications. That will unnecessarily frustrate you and limit your search. Check out the AAM archives for advice.

    But you’re smarter than you think you are and you know more than you think you do. Give yourself credit.

  32. Agile Phalanges*

    It sounds like there are a few different questions/issues on the table.

    (1) Are you competent at your job? From the sounds of it, you actually are, but have significant impostor syndrome (believing you’re less competent than you really are). Do you have peers at your job you can ask for honest feedback from, and see if they think you’re behind the curve in certain areas, and whether the areas they think you could improve in line up with the ones YOU feel you need training in? I wonder if you’d feel a lot better about all of this if you knew you were definitely doing a good job, even if you feel like you’re barely treading water. Or if you’d still be unhappy, because regardless, you FEEL like you’re treading water. I also noted that you indicate that you wear too many different hats–maybe that’s the biggest issue, not lack of training–you’re just trying to keep too many balls in the air, and even the best-trained walrus will drop a few now and again. :-) If you do suspect it’s more about the number of balls than the quality/amount of training, then it’s time to assess how much of that is fixable in this job, or whether you need to look for another.

    (2) Lack of training. I saw someone pointing out the differences between the working world vs. school above. In school, they “teach to the test,” and nothing should be on the test that wasn’t covered in class. But that’s not how work works. :-) There should definitely be formal training for super-important things that will mess up people’s lives if they’re done wrong (like surgery!) but many things in life are seat-of-the-pants learn-by-doing types of things. And it’s hard for us (and Alison) to know which yours are without more information than you likely want to give. Can you reflect on how you’ve asked your boss(s) and how they’ve responded to your requests for more training? If you were kind of passive and overly polite in your requests, maybe they assumed it was nice-to-have and not a I-feel-I-need-this-to-do-my-job sort of request. Or if they responded with “yeah, let’s look into that,” maybe you assumed THEY would look into that, and they assumed you would research options or something. And do you have mentors within the company and/or within your industry who can give you a temperature check on what things are normal to get thrown in the deep end and what you should really get more training on, and what kinds of training are available, etc.?

    (3) Do you even want to work here? I couldn’t quite tell from the letter if you’re wanting to move on BECAUSE of the lack of training, or if you want to move on, period, and the lack of training is just a question you want an answer to so you can job search with a better idea of what to look for. If you would otherwise be happy in this job and would want to stay in it, then you should probably put more effort into #1, especially, than if you plan to leave regardless, and of course it would change the focus of all these analyses depending on the answer. Five years is a pretty decent span of time to look for a new job, though, just to change things up, which leads to…

    (4) What do you want to look for in your next job? I recently switched jobs from one where everything was kind of open-ended and I didn’t really have a predecessor or mentor and was expected to set up processes on my own, and I realized I both suck at that AND hate it. So I found a new job where there are set processes and I was well-trained, and given examples to go from, but it still has room for improving and changing and questioning those existing processes as I feel more confident in the role, and I’m thriving. So all that introspection and asking things of mentors in the field and friends whose business sense you trust can all aid in you figuring out the type of job you want to look for next, and the questions to ask in the interviews to find the right fit.

  33. Tiger Snake*

    In my experience, which is public-service bent; learning on the job is normal and being sent away for training is abnormal.

    I think that maybe the OP has some impersonation syndrome here. There’s a few people I’ve worked with whose confidence makes them not realise that they do know what’s needed for the job, and so sending them for training would just be a waste of time and money. I’ve been one of those people, too.

    I’ve also had situations where the on-the-job training is more than you need, because your senior coworkers are that highly skilled. But because they have their own work, they’re not giving training courses – they’re feeding it in small parts and giving you direction at work, but still letting you do the work on your own. So they direct you to try things on your own rather than walk you through it all at once – a good training method, but one that’s very different to a training-course learning style. People who are used to the former can feel frustrated or that they’re not making progress because they don’t get the right answer/validated marking immediately like you do in a course or test.
    The seniors who are used to doing this freerange training can also feel like their trainees want their hand held if that’s the problem, and the frustration can bleed into the trainees’ anxiety a bit, so then it can spiral.

  34. HA2*

    Telling people to do work they are not trained for is also I think common in smaller companies, where one person may need to do many different things! If a person might have one of a dozen different tasks over the course of a month, it could make sense to hire someone who’s just good at learning on the fly, rather than planning to send somebody to a training for every thing they need to do!

    OP, sounds like that’s the approach your company took. They hired you knowing that you don’t (yet) have the skills to do all the different things they’d ask of you, but they trusted that you’d figure it out anyway… and it sounds like you have! You’re wearing many different hats and, apparently, doing the job to the satisfaction of the people that hired you.

    Yes, maybe you could do it better with more resources. Perhaps you’re right about this and your bosses, who don’t think those resources are needed, are wrong.

    Or perhaps this is just a learning style thing – you prefer to get training rather than just learning on the job.

    Either way, it’s perfectly reasonable to want to leave this place and go to one that has a more formal training structure in place, and to ask questions about it in the interview! But please leave this job thinking “I am leaving a job that I was good at because I want to grow even faster and become even better”, not “I’m leaving because I sucked at my job and my bosses didn’t even notice.”

  35. Ugly Betty*

    I could’ve written this exact letter – I’ve worked in non-profits my entire adult life and picked up a variety of skills. But at the same time, I’ve been tasked with learning a new program that is so advanced it takes years to learn. And the training has been everywhere from nonexistent to downright incorrect. It’s made me feel like a failure, even though I know logically it’s not me. I was not set up to succeed from the start.

    That’s all to say I agree with Alison – this is so common in non-profits and I believe it leads to a unique kind of burnout.

    Hang in there OP! There’s something else out there that will have the structure you’re looking for.

  36. Alexis Rosay*

    I’m really curious what an adequate amount of training for a job looks like. Other than retail, where there pretty much a boxed training for new employees because there are so many of them and they all need to do the exact same thing, I have never once received an extremely thorough training for a new job.

    Eventually, I realized that just figuring out how to do things *is* the job, or at least it has been for all of the positions I’ve had. This has been the case for my jobs in two very different sectors. I’m not sure if that is normal or might actually be something I gravitate toward.

    Anyway, I think OP should congratulate themselves for doing good work with minimal training. If my experience is any guide, that ability will be helpful in many jobs.

  37. Elle*

    I’ve been in a somewhat similar situation-I was put into a role at a company I’d never heard of and in an industry I was entirely unfamiliar with by the consulting firm who directly employed me. The first few months were hell and in some ways I’m still healing from the bad management I was under (my direct manager once accidentally texted me ABOUT me, complaining about how many questions I asked and how stupid my questions were, for example) but the industry and type of position actually turned out to be a great fit for me. OP, you sound very thoughtful and conscientious. It sounds to me like you should have gotten a lot more support in this role, and like you may be a bit tough on yourself, but it also seems like you’re making the right decision in moving on. I couldn’t be happy in a place where I don’t feel like I’m doing well that also lacks any structure or plan in place to help me improve. I hope your search goes well and that you keep aiming high.

  38. Sasha*

    For the first letter: Get waterproof seat covers, and put something on the floor so cleaning isn’t so involved. Since this seems to happen frequently enough.

  39. gmg22*

    Oh my goodness. I pretty much could have written this letter — I’m six weeks away from my last day at the nonprofit I’ve worked at for almost eight years. I came in to do a job that I had specific experience at, but then moved into one where I didn’t. And the past 4 1/2 years have been exactly like what the LW described: always flying by the seat of my pants and never quite sure that I’ve done things the right or the best possible way.

    The advice and feedback from fellow nonprofiteers makes me feel so relieved. I haven’t been taking crazy pills, this stuff really is hard.

  40. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    I felt like this in my first full-time job. It was a start-up, the boss was a geek who liked tinkering with computers (back in the 80s when nobody had a computer unless they were a Computer Technician) and we all just had to feel our way. There weren’t any training courses for what we were doing, we were the pioneers. So we learned by doing and had no idea whether it was any good, and we thought it was crap.

    Then some competitors came on the scene and while they had an edge because they had leveraged some new technology (CD-ROMs in a CD drive! while we used cassettes with a cassette recorder hooked up to the computer by way of the boss’s invention, the “Synchroniser”) we saw that the content they’d produced was far inferior to ours! We still went bust though…

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Oops I digressed. So we learned by doing. Some of us loved it, trial and error till we get it right, let’s press that button and see what happens.
      I had trouble putting my accomplishments and strengths on my CV since it was so far removed from what most companies were doing at the time.
      Sounds like OP would thrive better in a company with well-honed processes, and proper documentation and training for everything. And maybe training that would actually lead to a piece of paper to attest to the fact that she’s learned something, rather than being able to say “well I was able to fill in that spreadsheet”.

  41. Hapax Legomenon*

    OP, are you looking for a reason to blame your job so you feel more okay about looking for a new one? You don’t need an employer to fail you before you can ethically look for a new job. This is a no-fault job breakup: you’re unhappy, your organization doesn’t seem equipped to address the issues with your job that are making you unhappy, and therefore it’s time to move on. You know now that there are some features of your current job that aren’t tenable for you long-term in a position, and you have been given advice on screening jobs for those features. Now go look for a job that you can do in a way that satisfies you, because you don’t deserve to suffer forever in a job that is incompatible with you.

Comments are closed.