The Right Way To Say “That’s Not My Job”

When you are first starting a job, it is important to always ask “How can I help?”. You don’t have to be the most skilled person in your line of work to be the most helpful. I would go so far to say that 80% of any job depends on your attitude–and this includes a willingness to help.

I still stand by this assumption, and I am glad that in the early years of my career, this is still the mindset that I have. The problem? At some point, you might be known as the “girl who unloads the dishwasher”, or people might even say “I’ll just ask her to do it– she won’t say no”.

Don’t get me wrong, being the go-to person is rarely a bad thing. However, as I start my career, I have realized that this mindset can often turn a helpful person into a pushover.

THIS is not a goal.

So how do you avoid being stuck with the worst items on everyone else’s to-do list, while not having to say the words: “That’s not my job”?

Communicate with Your Supervisor

Communication is so incredibly important. I want to be clear though- “communicating with your supervisor” is different than “whining to your coworkers”, which is also different than “complaining to the CEO or HR”.

Talking badly about anyone’s behavior makes BOTH of you look bad. Saying “If friggin’ Becky makes me print for her one more time, I am gunna LOSE it!” to a coworker, is not the way to go. It will always-in some way, shape or form– get back to you.

There are definitely times when going straight to HR or someone high up in the company is necessary, but more often than not it will be super shady if you decide to go over your direct supervisor’s head. Chances are, they have been there longer than you have, or maybe they just started but have a lot of experience in the industry. Either way, going over your supervisor’s head as your Plan A makes it look like you’re trying to get around the rules.

Create Your Own Job Description

A lot of entry level jobs come with a miscellaneous job description. It’s a lot easier for an employer to hire someone and figure out the person’s day-to-day tasks once they hire them. Make it easy for them! Don’t be afraid to share an idea that might be more valuable to the company if you feel like you are constantly getting tasked with a to-do list full of things that anyone could do.

If you are feeling like you aren’t getting the most out of your job title, and you want to present new ideas to your boss to include in your job description, try this:

  1. Look up your dream job on any job search website- find a few!
  2. Copy and paste their list of requirements into a word document.
  3. Take that list of skills/requirements and divide it into the ones you already have, the ones you can accomplish in your current position, and ones you will have to acquire elsewhere.

We have to understand that even the best bosses have more to worry about than your career path.

If you don’t show your boss that you want to grow, why would they take the time to water you?

Be Honest- Leave No Room For Misinterpretation.

If your boss asks you “How is everything going?” and you reply with the obligatory “Everything’s good!”, they will assume that everything is good. If it’s not the right time to bring it up, just say: “There are a few things I would love to get your feedback on. Do you have some time to talk later today/this week?”

I am an A+ overthinker, and I always convince myself that any sort of confrontation is going to end in some sort of Jersey Shore blow-out fight, which is just never going to happen. Something to keep in mind:

Avoid using language that can be interpreted as “their fault”.

“I feel like you made it seem like I would be more involved in _____, but really I just answer the phones all day…” should be more like “I think the original job description provided to me has some room for growth. Moving forward, I just want to be clear about my intentions and goals for my career path so we can work together in making sure that my skills are being best utilized to help the company achieve its goals”

Know Your Worth- Be Confident!

You do not hire Beyoncé as a backup dancer, and you don’t have your first round, five-star draft pick as your team water boy! For a lot of jobs, you need to be responsible for getting the job done right. This doesn’t mean you have to go in knowing all of the answers- it means you go in knowing how to use the resources around you to get the answers. Don’t be pushed to the back-burner or be the side-dish of any department you work within. Start by being the secret sauce that makes everything taste better, and work your way up to being the whole dang entree!

“Impostor Syndrome” is basically that feeling where you constantly feel like you don’t have the qualifications to have made it where you are. This can refer to any part of your life, but I find it most applicable to my professional life. I always think “there has to be a more adult-ier adult around…”. Ever feel like this? Here is a podcast episode by Jenna Kutcher that I found really helpful as I start my career!

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