The alarm rings. You open your eyes. You are in a happy haze until you realize it’s only Wednesday, and you have 3 more days in purgatory this week. You have to go to work. For whatever reason, you still work there. You make too much money to quit. You have been unable to find another job. Your spouse is currently unemployed, and yours is the only income. There are all kinds of reasons people stay in jobs they would rather leave. Whatever your reason, there is hope!
Think outside the box for a moment. The people who hired you wanted you because they thought you were the person they were looking for. Interviewing is stressful, and most people (on either side of the desk) are not very good at it. They were relieved to find you, and you were relieved to be offered the job. You accepted the offer because you thought it was the job you were looking for. You now realize that somebody goofed! There are any number of reasons for this disconnect. Only some of these are:
- They didn’t know what they wanted. They hired you, but had no idea who they were looking for, or what you bring to the table.
- You didn’t know what you wanted. You accepted the job because the pay was right and you thought it would work.
- The performance expectations were never clearly established, so you don’t really know what you are supposed to be doing.
- No one has any idea what your strengths and talents are, and you are frustrated because you aren’t doing what you do best.
- You know what you are supposed to be doing, you are capable of doing it, and you stubbornly refuse to comply.
Well, there actually is hope here, except, of course for the last situation! Seriously, almost all the time, both parties (employee and manager) really want this to work. For some reason they are stuck, and it’s usually some variation of the first four reasons listed. So how do you fix this? The irony is that you already know. Communication. Please keep reading—I’m not kidding!
When employers offer jobs, they have a need. There simply are not companies which can hire extra, redundant employees on a whim in this economy and in this business climate. The employer genuinely needs help. They need work done. They need someone who can do that work. But let’s say they fall into the first category in our list. They didn’t know what they wanted. And as a result, you are misdirected, frustrated, underutilized, or wrongly utilized. What now?
Well, you’ve been there long enough to recognize the disconnect. Intuitively, it seems to be the company’s role to fix this! But it isn’t happening. You have the choice to remain where you are (unhappy). Or you have the choice to do something. What do you have to lose, frankly?
Let me suggest that you do some thinking. Each job can be defined by the competencies or job skills required to successfully perform the job. But if things are as disconnected and dysfunctional as they seem to be, does the management know what the competencies for this job really are? Maybe not. Make a list of what you see as the skill sets this job requires. These could be attention to detail, tolerance for ambiguity, excellent presentation skills, empathy, analytical ability, and any number of other talents and skills.
Your next task is to define how these identified competencies apply to the job at hand. The job could require tracking particular business performance metrics; recording, classifying and providing updates on customer issues and complaints; interacting with suppliers; and handling the quality management system for your operation. You need to review both the competencies and job tasks with your manager to confirm that these are actually the skill sets and job tasks your role encompasses.
A good tool to use for this exercise is a “stop, continue, start” mentality. If you and your manager agree that your job does not actually include a task you’ve been doing, put that task in the “stop” category. If you have identified tasks which you both agree are certainly part of your job, put those in the “continue” category. And, if to your surprise, there are tasks your manager thinks you are doing, or should be doing, add those to your “to do” list today! Your manager may be somewhat resistant to this idea, but it is imperative that you understand WHY each of these tasks falls into the category into which you have placed it.
In today’s climate, it is extremely important both for the business and for the employee to plan employee development. In addition to your day-to-day duties, you and your manager should identify several other things. The first among these is what you are interested in doing as your career progresses. The second is what your manager sees as upcoming business imperatives and needs. The third is awareness of what competencies are a part of the next level of your job. Once you have identified and clarified these three categories, add relevant activities and experiences to your development plan. Your company does not have a formal development plan? Create one yourself. You are actually in charge of your future!
The key here is your own proactive behavior. If you and your manager have a serious disconnect as to what your job actually is, you may need to start looking. But, most of the time, the employer isn’t very good at this either. He just knows he needs help. Since he has not been able to define what he needs, do him a favor and present your ideas. Make sure you are clear as to what you can add to the team and what tasks you can relieve him of.
Even if your company has missed the boat as far as employee development is concerned, do yourself a favor and create a development plan for yourself. No support at work? In addition to beginning your own education and search campaign, figure out which competitor would love to snap you up. Network. Get to know the competition. Make yourself a valuable asset. Most of all, don’t give up!