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Not all jobs are made in heaven

Columnist Dave Conrad says don’t worry about your resume, be concerned about your well-being.

Ask Dave - Dave Conrad column mug
Ask Dave - Dave Conrad column mug

Dear Dave: I made a big mistake: I took a job at a company without doing much research into what I would be doing and how I would be managed. I think we all know that companies are struggling to find workers and they are offering high hourly pay rates and bonuses to lure people in. The company that I joined is managed by several abusive people, and my job is not what was promised – simply, my job is not challenging and fulfilling, and I have no clear career path to management. I hate to jump ship right away, because I know that will look bad on my resume. What should I do? -- T

Job hunting is often hard, because it is difficult to determine the management structure and prevailing leadership style, the culture of the organization, and a clear picture of what you will be doing and not doing in your job. You know what you have to sell -- skills, knowledge and abilities -- but you may not always know what companies have to offer -- good leadership, worker autonomy, and opportunities for employees to use their skills and grow their careers.

And when new workers are promised all kinds of alluring job responsibilities, they may end up being given roles that are dead-end jobs. I think that anyone looking for work these days can get caught up in the tempting hourly pay rate or salary conundrum and get confused about what they will end up doing. When it comes to defining the merit of a job and company, “all that glitters may not be gold.”

Some recent research shows that 51 percent of all U.S. employees are not engaged in their jobs; they are not turned on and tuned in. This figure could go much higher if employees take jobs only because money is dangled in front of them.

You can’t solve a problem if you can’t define it, so spend some time thinking about what’s really holding you back. It might be as simple as the chain of command; if the company isn’t adding any new management positions, you may need to quit and find work elsewhere in order to move up.

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Don’t worry about your resume; be concerned about your wellbeing.

Here are a few things that you could consider doing.

Learn new skills. There’s a possibility that you can’t move forward because you’re not qualified to do the job you’d like to hold next. In that case, your goal is to identify your personal skill gaps — and fill the gaps by learning the skills you need. Most successful folks are the ones who take lifelong learning seriously throughout their careers, and really take ownership of it. And don’t neglect learning from others.

Take on new assignments. Volunteer for assignments that will use the skills that you possess. And work on a project that requires you to learn new skills in order to complete the work. If you accept assignments that are causing your company and your manager problems, you will get to know and work with people who can make connections for you and boost the likelihood that important people will see what you have to offer.

Clean up your resume. You should have your resume up-to-date and ready to go at all times. Make sure your resume reflects your current level of education, experience and expertise, highlighting those qualities that may be desirable by hiring managers right now. And don’t make your resume look like a bed of roses. Often, hiring managers get turned off by resumes that don’t explain the real you and what you can really do.

Stay in touch with your network. One of the best ways to get out of a dead-end job is to strengthen the connections within your professional network. You never know what positions are not advertised but need filling. Current and past coworkers and even managers that you are on good terms with may know what you don’t. Talk to them! But don’t be a pest.

Be the best worker you can possibly be. Try your best to be upbeat and try being helpful to those around you, especially those that are obviously struggling. You don’t want to do your manager’s job — that may be dangerous. However, you can help make your manager shine to her or his superiors by having a team that knows what they are doing and gets the job done.

Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at conradd@augsburg.edu . Conrad is an associate professor of business at Augsburg University in Rochester.

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