I've had a few jobs recently where the employer made specific promises about the work that I'd be doing and the kind of projects I'd be working on. However, when I joined they reassigned me to something else. Usually they say something like "I know we said you'd be working on this exciting new project X, but we really need help porting the broken UI on this old project Y".

It's happened about 3-4 times in the last few years, and usually I deal with it by just leaving. But this has a detrimental effect on my CV.

I know prevention is better than cure, but I can't really help it if they lie to me. What's the best way to recover from this?

  • 6
    Next time you are promised something ask for it in writing. Asking for something in writing is a good way to quickly tell if someone is sincere.
    – LongThrow
    Jun 10, 2016 at 23:11
  • I was originally hired at my current position to complete time studies and do process optimization, but I have been re-purposed to creating an application for their sales system. I lack a definite written description of my role considering it is a lower-tier position that it used almost as filler at times. I agree, get a job description, read it, and know it well. Jun 10, 2016 at 23:14
  • With most places, you explicitly agree to perform other tasks as required. After you've proven yourself by finishing those tasks, then you can suggest going back to your nice project X.
    – Brandin
    Jun 11, 2016 at 0:09
  • @JoeStrazzere It's not so much that it's a different project, but a completely different area of work. Like they say they want someone working on the engine, and then put you on the UI team. Jun 11, 2016 at 1:21
  • 3
    Companies have work that needs to be done, and if the new employee would be better at job X rather than job Y (which differ from when the job description was written), they'll put the employee there. As long as other conditions do not change, e.g. salary, work conditions, employee advantages, there's nothing much you can do... That's the business reality.
    – user48138
    Jun 11, 2016 at 12:00

4 Answers 4


Be more realistic. Employers will have several programmes running, and they will assign people to whichever ones are short of people. That means you get moved around whenever they need you to move.

You don't get to pick your favourite project.

If you leave whenever you end up on a project you don't like, you'll just end up being labelled as a serial job-hopper. This could make you unemployable.

  • 1
    Somewhat true. I've also had good experience being able to pick my role, somewhat. When business needs demand, I expect to need to do what the business requires. But when opportunities arise, I hope the company will plug me into a position that I prefer, if I'm more qualified, and if I've communicated interest (sufficiently... enough that they know/remember what I prefer)
    – TOOGAM
    Jun 11, 2016 at 6:01
  • 1
    Or do it as a contractor, and contract for that specific piece of work
    – Sobrique
    Jun 12, 2016 at 21:15

I agree with some of the other answers that you need to be a bit flexible about the tasks assigned to you. And if you've left 3 or 4 jobs in the last few years, maybe you've been too rigid about this. Or perhaps you've just had a run of bad luck.

In any case, I'd also like to point out something that many people don't fully realise: an interview is for your benefit as well as the employer's benefit. When focusing on impressing a potential employer, interviewees often forget to make clear what their own expectations are. You want to be tactful so that people don't get the impression that you're a difficult employee. I might say something like this "My skills and interests are in unicorn training. Of course, I understand that from time to time you may need an employee to work on something other than what they are hired for. But if I were to join your company, how soon would you expect to put me on a unicorn training project?" Another way to ask would be "Are you looking for a full-time unicorn trainer, or someone who would do a bit of unicorn training, and a bit of dog training?" Listen carefully to the answers, and you'll have a better idea whether or not the job is right for you.


It might make business sense for the employer to place new hires, no matter what their experience level, onto low-impact projects for a period to give the employee an introduction to the business and its products. Even a brilliant and experienced programmer needs time to learn the ins and outs of a new environment before making useful contributions to core functionality. And no matter who you are, you are not some wizard who will be trusted to modify the core IP of an established business on day one.

It's possible that you were intended to work on the new and exciting products eventually, perhaps after proving yourself with other work, but left the company prematurely. This might not jive with your actual experience, but I do not think it's standard industry practice to trick employees into working for the company by promising them more interesting work. The fact that you say it's happened 3-4 times in a few years means to me that you probably didn't give the companies enough of a chance to determine if you were competent enough to be given important tasks.

Also, if they're paying you the rate that they'd pay someone to work on exciting project X and then they assign you to work on boring old project Y, that's a sign of good faith that they value you and will move you to more interesting things. Even if you're stuck working on the boring project for years, you can still take home that paycheck and work on something cool in your free time.


Usually when you join up with a new company there is a document called an "employment agreement". If you want to make sure that you will be assigned to project X then insist on that assignment being written into the employment agreement.

  • 3
    I can't imagine why any employer would agree to such a requirement in the contract.
    – Simon B
    Jun 10, 2016 at 23:49
  • 3
    Well, if the employer has promised the new hire that they would be working on a particular project, I see no reason why they would object. In fact, if they did object, that might suggest they were lying when they said they would be hiring him for the project.
    – Socrates
    Jun 10, 2016 at 23:59
  • 1
    This answer should be ironic.
    – Brandin
    Jun 11, 2016 at 0:07
  • 2
    Even if you convinced them to put something like that in your contract, it wouldn't override changing business priorities; it'd just guarantee that when it happened instead of being transferred to a different project, you'd be sacked. Jun 11, 2016 at 22:08
  • 1
    I've yet to have a job offer or employment agreement that says I will be working on project X. (What if project X goes away, or gets completed?) On the other hand, every employment agreement I've signed has had a "perform other duties as assigned" clause. Those "other duties" take up an ever greater fraction of time the higher one goes up the ladder or in seniority. Jun 12, 2016 at 0:35

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