How good are you at your Underground Job?




Your jobs does not comprise of one job, but three distinct ones. Your success or failure at your job is determined by the extent to which you understand the difference and the skill you have to do ONE of those jobs better than anyone else.


(This is the job we get paid to do)

This is what they tell you in the interview. This is the job you get HIRED for.

We arrive at work. We answer emails. Attend meetings. Sell stuff. Write reports. We draw, we make, we carry, and we inspect – all those TASKS that we will ostensibly be evaluated on when it comes to bonus time.

But if you listen carefully during your performance appraisal, you will find that rarely will your skills to do those tasks be questioned. (Occasionally, particularly in jobs that have clear, unequivocal outcomes – like sales jobs, or programming jobs – or relatively menial tasks - like manual labour - will there be some discussion around that, but that is the exception rather than the rule.)

Your skills at these jobs are rarely questioned or questionable as you most likely have the basic skills set in order to be offered the job.


(This is the job we don’t get paid to do)

These tasks are not in your job-description, but everyone does some of these at some point. The Job # 2 is the shadow job.

All those tasks that you have to do as part of Job #1, have a shadow job:

Helping a colleague solve a problem. Organising the Christmas party. Cleaning up in the kitchen. Baby-sitting a new employee.

It is about arriving early and staying late. Going the extra mile.

We all willing contribute on those extra jobs in category #2. We think it will make us stand out. We hope others will notice that we are team players. Organisations rely on this large pool of unpaid labour – corporate volunteerism that is driven people’s insecurities and needs to fit in. I would hazard a guess that if people didn’t participate in the Job #2s, few organisations would turn a profit. (Incidentally, labour unions thrive on isolating those extra bits and attempt to extract payment for it which is why corporations don’t like unions.


(This is the job that gets you paid.)

This is the most important job of all. If you don’t succeed at this job, you won’t be employed for very long and your success will be limited. This is the job you get FIRED for.

There is the good stuff:

Being nice. Being liked. Smiling when you don’t want to. Dressing appropriately. Keeping up appearance. Swallowing a sarcastic comment.

And there is the bad stuff:

Undermining someone. A gentle backstab here, an assassin’s smile there. Adding a bit to the gossip and tapping into the grapevine.

We all SAY we love doing job #1. We ALL say that Job #1 is what really matters. We sign up for Job #1 and we think that is the job that really matters. But it doesn’t.

Career advisors try to match your skills and interests with the tasks of Job #1. This is a futile exercise, because ultimately, every job becomes a sales job as you must learn to sell yourself.

Go on leave for a month, and somehow things still get done. It just shifts around as Job #2 for others to take care of. NO matter how indispensable we think we are, the jobs always get done.


You design your resume to show of your skills and experience in Job #1 – The Ostensible Job.

You interview to show off your ability and willingness to do Job #2 – The Shadow Job.

You keep your job by delivering sufficiently on Jobs #1 and #2.

You succeed or fail by your ability to do the Underground Jobs - that is Job # 3, and the hardest of all.

There you go, the secret is out.