Job Description Shenanigans: Dream Job or Cubicle Cave Dweller?

by Darwin on March 4, 2012

Everyone has experienced a real job salesman.  Whether it’s a recruiter, a friend, or a manager at a particular company, someone packages up a job to make it something it’s really not.

In my short life I’ve already had quite a few of these, ranging from total scheme to decent wage-earner job status.  High school graduation made me a target for Vector Marketing’s knife sales.  A few college years made me target for whole life insurance “finance” jobs.

And of course, you can’t forget the internships.  You know, those internships that are really just a boring old job in disguise, with the added perk of getting your foot in the door for better opportunities?  I remember being told that I “would work with some of the smartest people in the world.”  That sounds great, but it’s not entirely true.

That promise amounted to effective data entry and basic financial modeling.  Hell, Darwin told me I would be writing for Financial Times, and yet my posts just keep showing up here.  I don’t get it!

Getting the Job Sales Pitch

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it’s a definite start to red flags in the job hunt:

  1. Seeing the world – Ahh, the classic job promise of seeing the world and traveling to every nook and cranny on planet earth.  The Army says something like this, but then sends you half-way around the world to fight 12-year olds toting AK-47s.  Consulting companies offer the same potential, except any sightseeing is done at 20,000 feet from a 747.
  2. Changing lives – You’ll get the opportunity to change people’s lives every day!  You’ll work for the greater good!  Reality: you’ll dial for donations, of which only a very small portion go to a good cause, and the remaining 80%+ goes to the company doing the calling.  There’s a company in my town that does just this…and they’re always hiring.  Friends that I would consider some of the most responsible people I know only lasted mere weeks at this place.
  3. Learn the business – What better way to learn a business than from the bottom up, right?  Wrong.  You’ll learn about the nitty-gritty part of the business that does not generate any money.  If your goal is to develop professionally, this gig shouldn’t be the target.   Exit opportunities?  Excellent, so long as you start an outsourcing firm to do what you did for the company before.
  4. Unlimited pay – You have the chance to make an unlimited amount of money working for commissions.  The sky is the limit, they say.  The reality: paying you on commission is the best deal in the world; you make money so long as the company makes money.  All the risk of the company (usually new) is borne by the employee, not the business owner.

Do employers really think that these selling points work? I mean, there has to be some reason why every job opportunity is loaded with a sales pitch of a new life and immeasurable opportunity, right?


 Have you ever experienced a hard-sell to take a job?

Have you ever been the target of an offer that sounded great on paper, only to learn that the job description was nothing like it seemed?

 Check out these articles in Career as well:

Written by: JT, who blogs about finance and money at

Photo: petesimon

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Darwin March 4, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Great one JT. So, my blood still boils when I think about how bad I got screwed on my final internship in college. You know, the most important one during the summer before senior year when you’re trying to get something great on your resume to actually land a job later that year?

So, a classmate of mine said his dad’s firm was looking for an engineering intern at some company (I can’t even remember the name, they were that small). I showed up being told I’d be doing all kinds of engineering calculations, efficiency initiatives and getting “involved in the business”. You know what I did all summer? A senior year chemical engineer? I counted inventory. I was literally walking through a warehouse every day with a clipboard climbing up and down giant rolls of sheet metal and other materials doing inventory counts. It was absurd. A few days in I complained about how this wasn’t what I signed up for and they promised to get me more “challenging assignments”. The summer dragged on and I had no prospects of a real internship so I just sucked it up and made the best of it.

Really pissed me off. I will never do that to an intern or new hire. Now that I think of it, I had an intern one year and we still keep in touch to this day. I guess I did right by him; he makes it a point to catch up a couple times each year for lunch and talk career.


Steve March 4, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Just to be a bit of a contrarian, I’d usually agree but #1 does come true sometimes. I took a job out of college where they promised to show me the world … and I ended up having several offers to go overseas before taking a 5 month gig (which turned into almost 3 years) with the company in Russia. So that can happen. I’ll add the caveat that I had a skill – speaking Russian – that made it happen, but companies will still shove you overseas if it suits their needs. #3 and #4 are dead-on, though.


Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog March 6, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I worked for an ANRC ( and one of the selling points was helping out alaskans. It sounded good at the time, but the fact that I needed a job made it easier to say yes. A while back, these corps really got hit in the press for how much they compensate top execs v what they actually return to alaska


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