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4 Rules of Engagement Never Found in a Job Description

Job Description Watch Outs

My latest St. Louis Post-Dispatch column is now live!  This month’s article is all about the difference between a job description and the things you REALLY have to do in that role in the workplace. Below is an excerpt.


Have you ever asked someone if their job description adequately describes what they do in their job and they respond, “Sit down, let me tell you what I really do.”

Why is this often the case?

As a career coach, I often see a huge difference between a job description and how it actually comes to life. For example, colleges are great at developing students and providing opportunities to learn a skill set you can market. However, whenever you implement a skill set that interacts with human beings in some way, shape or form, there are expectations — on the part of the hiring manager and co-workers — that come with that job that simply aren’t taught in a class. These rules of engagement usually aren’t even spoken of during a job interview.

So, when starting a new job, how can you uncover its hidden rules of engagement?

Rule 1: Look for the Alpha in the pack, and learn the pecking order.

It won’t take long to discover whose behavior or voice becomes dominant in workplace conversations/meetings. Pay attention when you hear something like, “When it comes to budgets, Mr. Green will want you to deliver information this way … ” or “By the way, don’t get Diane on your bad side — and beware, she has her three subordinates taking note of what you say … ” It’s one thing to understand the organizational chart. It’s another to see how everyone plays together — and how you can play well with everyone.

Rule 2: Find out what behaviors get rewarded – a.k.a. “office politics.”

Managers who believe their department doesn’t have politics are clueless to the dynamics within their organization. If you want to become a star performer, you have to fully understand what behaviors your manager will reward…

Read the rest of this column here.