What to Do When Your Job Description Suddenly Changes

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Depending on your situation, news that your job description is changing can be good news or cause for alarm. If management is taking responsibility away from you, even if your official title or salary have not changed, you should be concerned about your future in the organization. On the other hand, if you've been given a lot of extra responsibility without the accompanying salary boost or promotion, that can also be disconcerting, or a blessing in disguise if you were looking for more challenges and hope to turn the situation into an opportunity.

Either way, don't just sit back and be a spectator if your responsibilities have changed enough for you to notice. Take an active role in investigating the issue. Keep these tips in mind and you won't be surprised at work.

Self assess.

It's usually best to take a look at yourself first, especially if you've been losing responsibilities. Have you been slacking off or ignoring feedback that you need to improve? If so, take this as a major warning sign. If you want to keep your job, it's time for some serious improvement and action on your part. On the other hand, if you've been asking for more challenging work, you may have gotten what you requested, except without the pay raise you were expecting.

Take some time to evaluate what you're being asked to do and think whether or not it is in your best interest to manage the new job without a raise for the long haul. If not, be sure to address it with your supervisor when the time is right.

Look around.

Are you the only one experiencing a change? If everyone all of the sudden has more responsibilities, it may mean something big is coming and the company is trying to prepare. What you won't know is whether the big thing is good or bad – unless you can get the inside scoop from someone who knows. It's also likely that financial concerns resulted in people not being hired to take on new responsibilities, which is why they are falling to you and your colleagues.

On the other hand, if everyone in your group now seems to be persona non grata, it's likely a bad sign about your team's role in the organization, or it could reflect poorly on your boss. Keep your eyes open and evaluate your situation in the context of everyone else's.

Talk to your supervisor.

It's always a good idea to keep the lines of communication open with your boss. Whether the change seems like a positive or negative sign for your career, after you check yourself, have a sit down conversation with your employer and discuss the situation. This would be the time to explain how you're going to do better going forward and that you hope to earn your old responsibilities back, or to ask when a raise and/or new title will accompany your responsibilities. Keep in mind, unless you are ready to leave the job, don't issue any ultimatums about your needs. It's best to keep those close to the vest until you are ready to leave.

Take advantage of the situation.

If you all of a sudden are facing new challenges you've never handled, do your best to ramp up quickly. Tap mentors or senior friends in your industry to help you maintain your performance and succeed with your new role. Start making a list of the types of skills you are using and challenges you're managing so you can update your online profiles and resume.

If, on the other hand, you're experiencing a demotion, take it as an opportunity to learn and try to improve. Or, take it as a sign that it's time to move on and make plans accordingly.

Figure out next steps.

Regardless of how your responsibilities have changed, it can be difficult if you weren't prepared and if you aren't being paid to do the job you're delivering. Keep close tabs on what you are doing and keep an ear to the ground to make sure you know what to expect as much as possible at your organization. If it's time to plan a transition, don't think it needs to happen in one week. Start ramping up your outside of the office networking and social networking efforts and look into improving your marketing materials and resume. If you need to start actively searching for a job, you want to be ready.