When the job advertised may not be what it seems and how this affects your career


I remember applying for a job that said I would be trained in ‘all aspects of marketing’. Having done a business degree, I remember thinking ‘Oh yeah – so that will include product development? Distribution strategy? All aspects? I think not’. It was a direct sales job all day long. It was something I was willing to do however, so I got the job and it did me a lot of good. It informed my attitude towards work for a long time thereafter, and in particular the importance of personal responsibility. But it was a misleading advert.How to understand your value and your transferable skills despite your job

You have to read a job advert in the knowledge that the person who wrote it was trying to attract applicants. But there is no point in getting applicants who will later be disappointed. Some people are better at it than others.

Another thing to be wary of is the tendency of some small business owners to put way too much pressure and responsibility on inexperienced or newly qualified people. Asking an individual to come in and ‘do’ the marketing function for a business that has never had one is a common example. Anyone new to a role benefits from having team members to learn from and bounce ideas off. If that is not available, it can be unfair to judge the performance of a new employee against standards they have no chance of meeting. Especially if training is not provided.

Sales is a field where this happens often. No-one can sell effectively on behalf of a company that does not care about its products / services, is not sufficiently different or does not understand its differentiators.

Consultancy or advice is another field in which it is tempting for some people to leave projects in the hands of junior people. But in many cases this is not a good way to learn and is even worse for the company’s brand.

Of course the person who comes in is full of enthusiasm and optimism and thinks they can do it. But if we take the marketing role as an example, trying to do marketing for a product or service that you cannot have any input into (and may not be good enough) when you are remote from the leadership of the business and there is no brand or strategy to speak of and no understanding that any of this stuff is necessary is a passport to failure. What happens is well intentioned operational level activity that has no chance of being relevant to others in the business.

Training is another issue. Some employers think that staff should turn up already trained. And in many jobs there will be a level of training required in order to be selected. But none of us should ever stop learning.


There are a number of things that most people need in order to have any chance of succeeding:

  • Budget – e.g. for marketing or for essential software to do their job.
  • A marketing executive needs access to designers and developers for example (internally or externally).
  • Motivation – or at the very least, the absence of demotivation. Managers should remember that staff are not obliged to work for them and it is their responsibility to maintain a positive working environment. I’ve seen managers actually sabotage their own department or company through pointless negative behaviour.
  • A sense of ‘who we are and what we do here’. Is it really to be expected that new employees re-invent this? It’s a negligent business owner who expects this. It results in an incoherent and inconsistent set of messages given out externally.


What to do about it?

If you have experienced this kind of job role in a failing company or where you were set up to fail as described above, the main thing to do is view this in context.

Whilst in the job you should never give less than 100%, despite the challenges. And that means avoiding a passive aggressive approach or pretence at doing all you can – it means actually doing so.

But you need to be looking for ways to demonstrate your skills and then use them to find a new and better role whenever it should present itself.

Once you have left, the most important advice is that the job does not define you. You may or may not have achievements to promote on your CV. But you cannot be held responsible for all aspects of someone else’s company. You should understand and articulate what you contributed to the role, and how you overcame challenges.

You can identify what the challenges were and how you (at least partially) mitigated them. But there is no benefit to you in criticising a former employer. Anyone hearing this has no way of verifying if things really were as bad as you say.

A business requires a number of things to be successful: Marketing, finance, HR and operations. No one except the business owner can be held accountable for all of these. The challenge for anyone applying for jobs is to understand how to fairly evaluate their own performance.


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CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.