Dealing With a Skills Mismatch When Applying for a Job

Image of a paper resume.

It's in an employer's best interest to be very clear with a candidate about what she'll be doing every day once she joins a new company. Hiring is expensive and difficult, and there's no profit in luring an employee on board with false promises about what a certain job will entail. Before they accept an offer, candidates are also wise to determine how they'll be spending the day in their new workplaces, and how their actions will support their employers and their own long-term goals.

But in spite of an employer's best effort to provide a clear picture of what the future will hold, and a candidate's best effort to make an accurate prediction of what the job will be like, miscommunications and skill mismatches still take place every day. Right now all over the country, new employees are sitting at their desks wondering when they're going to start actually editing, selling, managing, curating, teaching, or programming as their job descriptions implied. In many cases, an employee actually finds herself toiling away at a task that has nothing to do with her education or skill sets, one she may not excel at or enjoy at all.

So how can employees recognize when they're facing a skill mismatch that benefits nobody? And when they realize they've been handed an unintentional bait-and-switch, how can they set things right?

How to Recognize a Skill Mismatch: Four Important Signs

Here are four key indicators that your skills and your job are misaligned:

  1. You've been told that it takes a while to work your way up to the actual tasks you signed up for, and that before you reach that point, you'll need to put in some time at another task. You were told this six months ago. 

  2. You started out working on "real" tasks, but over time these tasks were taken away from you. Now you're fetching coffee every day for some reason. 

  3. You were initially placed in the hands of a mentor or trainer who seems to have forgotten you and/or lost interest in your personal progress. 

  4. You're not doing anything even close to what your job description implied. This is a publishing company, and your job title says "editor," but you haven't been handed a single editing task and every day you're coached in the art of spreadsheet management or sales. 

You're on the Wrong Path: How to Fix It

Here are the steps you should take to get back on track:

  1. Speak up. Don't be afraid to sit down with your direct supervisor and point out that your most valuable skill sets are going unused. 

  2. Speak up for the best interests of the company as well as yourself. When your skills and training are being underutilized, nobody wins. Until this is fixed, the company isn't using its resources in a very profitable way. 

  3. Ask if there are any specific roadblocks standing between where you are and where you need to be. Do you need prove your skills in an on-the-job setting before you can be trusted? If so, who should you be appealing to, and what forms of proof do you need to present to this person? 

  4. Work with your employer to establish a very clear timeline. When exactly will you be making the transition from sweeping floors to handling sales calls? When will you be meeting with clients instead of filing paperwork? Know what you'll do if this timeline comes to an end and nothing changes. 

Get Ready to Move On

If your requests for task realignment are ignored, you'll have two choices:

1) You can stay with this employer and put your goals on hold while you follow the re-drawn path in front of you.

2) You can head back to the job market and look for a more appropriate position.

If you choose the second option, make sure your next job hits the mark. Visit LiveCareer and explore the available positions posted in our extensive job database. Type your job title and geographic area into the search bar and keep looking until you find the position that matches your criteria. Don't settle for second best.

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