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When the Job Is Not Quite as Advertised

By Mary Ellen Slayter
Sunday, March 2, 2008

Poli Marinova thought she had landed a great entry-level job in marketing and advertising.

Wrong. "The job turned out to be selling distressed merchandise door-to-door in Southeast D.C. (not the nice section)," she wrote in a recent e-mail.

It was "a very unpleasant experience," said Marinova, 30, who now works as marketing communications manager for Alexandria-based Vacation.com.

Marinova's example is extreme, but she's not the only worker to take a job, only to find out it's not quite what she expected.

In some cases, the gap is so egregious, the only reasonable response is to quit immediately, as Marinova did. "As soon as I found out what the story was I wanted to leave but was left stranded and had to go into a convenience store to get a cab and find my way home," she wrote.

But in other cases, the difference in expectations is more subtle and doesn't become apparent until the worker has been on the job for a while.

That's what happened to Alanna Sloan of Sacramento, when she took a job as a promotions coordinator for a restaurant chain in California. "The position was supposed to require writing press releases, planning promotions, working with local media, in addition to working closely with a graphic designer to produce effective advertisements," she said.

Instead, she found herself doing mostly administrative work. At first she didn't mind, thinking it showed that she was a team player. "After three weeks my job proved to be nothing more than programming gift cards, printing . . . distributing supplies to the restaurants including things like soy sauce and chopsticks, and ordering needed promotional items," said Sloan, 24.

There was another discrepancy. She was told she would be paid $36,000 a year, but her employer didn't mention that $500 a month of that was in the form of a gas credit in lieu of reimbursing her for mileage.

She tried to work it out, scheduling a meeting with her supervisor and bringing the original job description along for discussion.

But instead of changing Sloan's tasks, her boss changed the job description, to "one without any of the desirable characteristics that led me to take the job in the first place." Sloan resigned. She quickly found a new job, one that has turned out to be as advertised.

If you find yourself in a job that differs from what you expected, you face some difficult choices.

How quickly you need to make them depends in part on the severity of the issues, said Trudy McCrea, chief executive of Achieve-It, a recruiting, consulting and executive coaching firm. "If safety and ethics are being violated with no chance of correction," leave.

Other justifications for walking immediately, according to McCrea:

¿ If there's a serious conflict with your boss, with no fix in sight, or you don't think the boss or company can be trusted in general.

¿ If your paycheck is off. If the salary and benefits aren't what they promised, and management doesn't immediately rectify the situation when you call attention to it, quit immediately. No reputable, financially stable employer would do this.

¿ If you have another open job offer, perhaps one that you would have chosen had you known the truth about this one.

Other differences merit a wait-and-watch approach, she said. Among them:

¿ Company priorities don't allow for focus on your role or training.

¿ The organization is undergoing a big change.

¿ The timing is wrong. Perhaps you were hired ahead of a need that hasn't materialized as quickly as the company thought.

So sit tight if you like the employer and the people there in general, are learning, and think there could be other opportunities.

If you're confident that the people who hired you acted in good faith, work with them to try to resolve the mismatch or issues, McCrea said. Ask questions to learn more about why the gap exists and what can be done to make you happy. "Talk to others inside and outside the company to validate your thoughts, privately. Be careful not to add to the problem with gossip."

The patient approach can help protect your r¿sum¿ as well as your bank account. "Trying to find a new job with several short career moves raises suspicions," McCrea said. "If you can't afford another career change, try to wait it out and look while employed."

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