Looks can be deceiving, and so can job offers. The latter fact was recently illustrated by the tale of two friends who have spent a combined four decades in the public relations industry.
Jennifer * recently took a job at a large software company. Her role was to formulate and implement a public relations strategy. After less than a week on the job, however, it became clear that she was expected to “dial for dollars” and drum up press clips. She smartly cut her losses and left as quickly as she came.
Derek is three months into his new job at a major manufacturer and he’s not happy about it. Like Jennifer, he was told that he would be running public strategy. Instead, he’s been reduced to “pitching and catching”–pitching media outlets, and scanning for company-related press clippings–something he says he has not done in almost ten years. He’s only sticking it out because he says internal discussions have made it clear that he will be handed the job responsibilities that he was promised before the end of the year.
What happened to Jennifer and Derek could happen to any of us. We go in for a job interview, find out about a fabulous public relations job, take it, and then discover that we’ve been snookered. How can public relations professionals protect themselves against the old switch-a-roo?
The simple answer is to get it in writing. When you’re accepting any job, you should always obtain a job offer in writing that spells out your duties. The chain of command should be clearly illustrated, as should your title. (Jennifer’s title at the software company mysteriously changed between the time of the job offer and her first day at work.) Just as important, you should get verbal confirmation of all of these points from the person who hired you.
After taking a job, if you find that the duties were not what you expected, you need to speak up. Jennifer and Derek both immediately made their concerns heard. Jennifer refused to take the “wait and see” approach that her superiors wanted and quickly forced them to admit that they had a made mistake by offering her a job that the organization was not prepared to give her. Derek’s superiors were initially less forthcoming, but he extracted a written agreement from them with a deadline for his job duties to shift. If the deadline is not met, Derek walks with a nice severance package.
In both situations, the problems lay at the feet of those doing the hiring. After reviewing Jennifer’s ordeal, she concluded that internal politics squashed her job because one office was unwilling to yield responsibilities to another. She later confirmed this and chided the people hiring her for not working out the details internally before she was hired.
Derek’s troubles, meanwhile, came about because an employee who was expected to leave the company decided to stay on. This meant that Derek was hired for a job that was no longer open. The company, he says, should have pulled the job offer instead of hiring him and trying to find something for him to do. I agree with Derek because at the very least he would have had the opportunity to keep his hat in the ring for other jobs that he was interested in. (Two jobs that Derek was considered for were filled not long after he informed the potential employers that he had accepted a job elsewhere.)
While Derek is waiting to take over his new job responsibilities, Jennifer is back on the interview trail. She’s optimistic that she’ll land a new job soon, and she says she learned something from her 30 hours at the software company.
“I am asking for very explicit written job descriptions,” Jennifer told me. “I am also asking about how I’ll fit into the existing organization and whether someone else is giving up responsibilities that they may not be ready to part with. I don’t want to find myself sitting at a desk doing nothing or doing something I’m overqualified for. This time I’m going to make sure that the job is actually what they say it is.”
*All names have been changed.
This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.