Almost all job descriptions use the phrase, “other duties as assigned” and this might give some candidates pause, but it shouldn’t.
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for federal employees, the clause, “other duties as assigned” is meant to refer to minor tasks related to a certain position.
“Because minor duties normally do not affect the classification of the position, are usually unimportant to work operations, and change frequently, it is generally not necessary to mention them in the position description,” according to the Classifier’s Handbook. “A statement, such as “Performs other duties as assigned,” covers such situations adequately.”
While some employers may abuse this, there are a few ways to inquire about what these could look like during the interview. As a candidate, you should ask:
- What about the job isn’t included in the job description?
- Can you share some examples of projects or responsibilities that could be included in other duties as assigned?
- Could you share some examples of opportunities for stretch projects?
- How do you respond to employees noticing something and correcting it or bringing it to your attention?
As both a manager and an employee, I have found that more often than not other duties as assigned may include filling in for someone who is on vacation, mundane tasks such as getting and sorting the mail and opportunities to grow your position or scope of responsibilities.
The mundane tasks or ones that are completely out of the scope of your job description can be looked at one of four ways:
- One-time requests to be helpful (ok but be mindful of when and if these cross a line or become more than just once in a while)
- Other departments asking for your help without going through your supervisor (this article from Muse has some great suggestions for how to navigate those)
- Covering for a team member as needed (vacation, sick, etc.)
- General helping out (noticing the copier paper is low and refilling it for example)
A quick word of caution, don’t let the mundane tasks take your time away from your actual job responsibilities because it could prevent you from future opportunities to grow your position or scope of work.
While the mundane tasks can be seen as ways to be a supportive team member, opportunities to grow your position or scope of responsibilities are what will continue to make you valuable as an employee. Mundane tasks accomplish a specific goal, stretch projects are growth opportunities and are a good indicator of trust.
(Note: there is a difference in growing your position and scope of responsibilities and coming in with a know it all attitude or intention to fix everything you see wrong. I often recommend those just starting with an organization give it at least six months and ideally a full year before asking for stretch projects or opportunities to try something new. However, during that time, your supervisor may give you stretch projects or opportunities and you should absolutely take those.)
The best supervisor I’ve ever had once told me, my job is to give you the tools to be successful, the objectives you need to achieve and the timeline. How you create that success and reach those goals is up to you.
In other duties as assigned, you can find opportunities to learn and hone new skills and gain experience to elevate your career.