The Bait-and-Switch Job Offer

Kate*, a copywriter and marketing professional, moved to Chicago three years ago with a promising job lined up. She was hired as a marketing manager at a small consulting firm, and was excited to expand her skills in a role where she was promised she'd be able to "wear a lot of hats."

Yet when Kate arrived on the job, it was nothing like she'd expected -- and she eventually realized she'd been the victim of a bait-and-switch job offer.

"The job, I was told, would consist of proofreading and writing copy for marketing materials as well as some design work -- they even asked me to bring in a portfolio of writing and design samples," Kate says. "They happened to mention that there might also be, 'a little bit of administrative work, but that's to be expected at every office.' Um, not so much."

Turns out, Kate's job consisted of all administrative work. "I was basically a glorified secretary," she says. "Not that there's anything wrong with that -- it's just that that's not the job I applied for and it's not the job they had me believe I would have during the interview process. My major 'writing' responsibility turned out to be creating envelope labels for the proposals we sent out."

Frustrated, Kate stayed on at the job, hoping that it would get better and that it would eventually take the shape of what was promised when she'd interviewed -- but she had no such luck. "It took months before I was even given a proposal to proofread, and even longer than that before I was trusted to contribute any copy to the proposals. I'm still baffled as to why they insisted I bring in writing and design samples. Or why the job advertisement called for someone with 'at least five years of experience' in a marketing role; this was clearly an entry-level position. A high school intern could've easily done my job. The only 'design' I ever did there was to help manually reformat our proposal templates -- in Microsoft Word."

It took about a year for Kate to realize that the job was never going to be what she'd hoped it would, and she left for another company, where she has been ever since. Yet she still feels slighted by the company that wasted a year of her professional life. Looking back, Kate says there were some reasons she believed her job turned out to be totally different than expected, though.

"I think part of the reason for the 'confusion' over my job was that I don't think the company really had a clear idea of what it was hiring for -- they knew they needed people, they just weren't sure for what. I think they also knew it was a menial (and humiliating for someone at my age and experience level) position, so they oversold it. Another major thing, though, was that this company's culture was based on fear. And my manager was so afraid to give me any responsibility lest I make a tiny mistake that would reflect badly on her, that she ended up micromanaging me -- and ultimately putting more work on herself."

Though Kate's job was nothing like what she imagined, many employees find that, to some degree, the job they end up doing is not the one they'd expected when they accepted their job offer. This tough situation then leaves workers with the difficult decision of whether to stick with job duties they weren't expecting, or call it quits.

Below are three tips on making that decision from Tina Chen, vice president at Carlisle Staffing, an Illinois recruiting firm.

1. Determine how different the job is: Then decide whether or not you would be able to adapt to the new responsibilities. For example, Chen says, "If you interviewed for an administrative position and end up in a sales position, that might be too big of a difference to overcome. However, if you interviewed for an account manager position and are now being asked to upsell while interacting with clients, this is just additional responsibility that may be easy to handle and not too far of a stretch."

2. Ask yourself if the role will be beneficial to your career: While it can be daunting to take on responsibilities you weren't prepared for, if the job can be a steppingstone in your career path, consider sticking it out. Ask yourself if you can gain experience that you otherwise may not have had to chance to learn, or if the new position will broaden your horizons to other opportunities in the future, Chen says.

3. Know when it's just not worth it: Don't force a job that's just a bad fit. If you signed up for A and found yourself with Z, it's OK to admit that it's just not working out. Thank your employer for the opportunity and move on. "Don't try to fit a square peg into a round hole because it'll end up being counterproductive for all parties involved," Chen says.

* Name has been changed to protect privacy

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