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What, Exactly, Is His Job?

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"But that monster messed with the wrong crew. With Candy's spirit, Grenda's strength, Dipper's brains, and... uh... Soos here, we'll get five hundred pieces of candy and have fun doing it too!"
Mabel Pines, Gravity Falls, "Summerween"

Often, especially in media with a large ensemble cast, there is one character whose function (in terms of his internal purpose within the cast) is a bit fuzzy. The details of this role are left purposefully ambiguous. Sometimes, the general nature of the character's role is quite evident; for example, the character might be big, intimidating, and good in a fight... but this naturally raises the question of just why the group needs someone who is big, intimidating, and good in a fight.

This is often lampshaded by someone unfamiliar with the group and their adventures pointedly asking "What exactly is his job, anyway?" When the question is Played for Laughs, the answer the newcomer gets is almost always something absurd. This can typically be paired with The Main Characters Do Everything since there are usually recurring characters whose purpose is ambiguous and the main characters can easily function without them. It's also common for an everyman, because the lack of specific role allows more of us to sympathize with the character.

Remember, this Trope is about a person's undefined or unsuitable role among the main team; not about how a person earns his keep between episodes.

Compare the Omnidisciplinary Scientist, who has a PhD in Everythingology and awesomeology, rather than merely having to be everything and awesome, and Open Heart Dentistry for medical professionals who don't have a specialty.

This is being confused with several other Tropes:

  • If a character actually has a job, but it's never clarified, then it's Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation. However, if the place where that person works is the main setting, then it counts as both this Trope and that one.
  • If it looks like someone doesn't have a job at all, they're likely Idle Rich or a Socialite.
  • If a character has a job or a role, but they aren't doing it, they are among The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.
  • If a character has a job they do do, but seem to have an excessive amount of free time, they're working a One-Hour Work Week.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball: For the longest time, it hadn't been revealed what type of field Gohan is studying for a living and what he exactly does in his scholar job. Dragon Ball GT portrays him a bit of an Omnidisciplinary Scientist due to him helping out Bulma in preparing the spaceship. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero reveals that he's studying insects, but it doesn't go into detail if he's studying just insects or other animals too.
  • Saikawa from Gakuen Babysitters. Is he the secretary? Is he the butler? Is he the chef? Ryuuichi can't tell, and Saikawa remains ambiguous about it by allowing the others to refer to him as they wish.
  • Rossweisse in High School D×D. While she serves as Rias's second Rook, she has no personal connection to the plot, and no Sacred Gear or other interesting powers. Averted much later, when she's finally given a focus chapter and her character and motivations are fleshed out considerably.
  • One Piece:
    • Despite fanon insisting that he's the first mate, Zoro doesn't actually have an official title or duty except swordsman. His main purpose in the crew seems to be just fighting enemies.
    • Robin is the archaeologist of the Straw Hat Crew, but until the Zou arc, there seems to be no benefits of having an archaeologist on board. On Zou, the Straw Hats learn that they need to decipher all four Road Poneglyphs to find the One Piece, which drastically increases Robin‘s importance for their journey. Furthermore, since she is one of the very few people who is able to decipher Poneglyphs, it gives the Straw Hats a massive advantage over almost every other crew who wants to find that legendary treasure. Being the sole survivor and last archaeologist of Ohara, Robin is literally irreplaceable for the crew.
  • Pokémon: Misty is supposedly a trainer journeying with an ambition to be a better Gym Leader than her sisters, but doesn't participate in any competitions except the rare girl- or water-themed challenge (the latter of which Ash would also take part in).
  • Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne: Be it at being an extra participant in any activity or saving the Earth, Jersey Club does it.
  • Variant in Aggretsuko: We know what position several characters work in (Retsuko's an accountant, Eaglette/Washimi is a secretary, Ape Admin/Gori works in marketing, etc.), but we don't know what the company they work at does.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: Obelix is a sculptor of menhirs, but we never see him actually delivering these stones to anyone. Though at least he HAS somewhat of a well defined job. Asterix, for instance, is always seen around the village, but we never find out what he does for a living, let alone his village community. Presumably he might be one of the town's hunters.
    • If Obelix needs a job done, he'll typically be shown swapping a menhir for whatever it is (trading a menhir for milk and a gourd to feed a baby in Asterix and Son, for instance), but Asterix always pays with money, making one wonder where he gets money and why Obelix wouldn't get any.
    • An early scene in Asterix Conquers America suggests that Asterix might be a fisherman by trade, since he knows his way around a small sailboat and is attempting to explain to Obelix how to properly use a fishing net. How canon this might be to the comics is anyone's guess.
  • Gaston Lagaffe: Gaston is usually seen sleeping, clowning around or unwillingly creating accidents at his office. He is frequently criticized for not doing his job, but, then again, it is never made clear what he is exactly supposed to do. It was in fact the character's defining element for a long time: Before he got his own proper comics, Gaston was actually a character who sometimes appeared in the margin of the magazine Spirou, with no explanation whatsoever of who he was or why he was there. It took some time before the two main characters of Spirou & Fantasio began to wonder what exactly was the purpose of his presence, and when they finally asked him, the only thing learned was that he supposedly had been hired by "some guy" to work here. Who was that guy, and what was the job that Gaston was supposed to be hired for remained a mystery, even for Gaston himself, hence why Gaston ended up being dubbed the "Hero-without-employment"
  • A running gag in the comic book Groo the Wanderer is what, exactly does Mark Evanier do (besides answer the letters page). Even his job description on the masthead changed every month to something silly or bizarre (in reality, he is essentially co-plotter and dialogue writer/editor).
  • De Kiekeboes: Marcel Kiekeboe works at an office, but that's all we ever hear about his job.
  • Nero: Nero seems to be without a job, because his wife always nags him with the question: "When are you finally going to get a job?" Though he describes his job as a "newspaper appearance", referencing the fact that "Nero" was a popular newspaper comic strip.
  • Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber: Piet and Bert share the same house, but their jobs are never addressed.
  • Spirou & Fantasio: Spirou is a bellhop, but hasn't been near a hotel in decades. Fantasio doesn't seem to have a job either.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Thanks to Rodimus’... unique leadership style, most of the Lost Light crew don’t have set duties and it’s often very unclear what positions crew members are supposed to have. In fact, it’s easier to list the crew members who do have explicit jobs; Rodimus (Captain), Ultra Magnus (second-in-command), Hound (lieutenant), Mainframe (pilot), Ratchet (chief medical officer), Blaster (communications officer), Rung (psychiatrist), and Red Alert (head of security). Everybody else mostly just hangs around and does their own thing until Rodimus deigns to give an order. Crew members are often dragged into away missions simply because there’s an off-chance they’ll be of use, rather then it being their official duty; Chromedome is only ever brought along because his mind-reading powers are useful.

    Comic Strips 

  • In the Batman fan series Cor Et Cerebrum Dev eventually just asks Tim what his job at Wayne Enterprises is, and when Tim's answer is nonspecific defensiveness that he does business things Dev gets him to admit he's pretty much a glorified intern who has freedom to insert himself into projects he's interested in.
  • In the Supper Smash Bros: Mishonh From God reboot Mishonh From Trump, Sara makes Joker a major member of the cast and her primary love interest despite knowing nothing about him or the game he comes from, which she mentions several times. His contributions to fight scenes are generally written as "he does whatever he does in his home game".

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Barbie (2023), "Beach Ken" does have a job: Beach. Not lifeguard. Beach. Exactly what that means is never specified, but it apparently requires a lot of skills.
  • Living in Oblivion is an independent film, with an ensemble cast, about making an independent film. When the director (Steve Buscemi) goes berserk on his crew after one disaster too many on a shoot, he calls each one out by name and reels off their failures in their jobs. When he gets to a production assistant, wide-eyed with panic, he hesitates and squints at her, "Who are you? What do you fucking do around here, anyway?"
  • Office Space:
    • Tom Smykowski has a job whose duties seem so light and so nebulous that even he can barely describe his job in terms that make it sound like he does any actual work, and what work he can describe is apparently done by the secretary which his job apparently warrants him having. He isn't in sales, he isn't a programmer, and he doesn't even really interact with clientele, prompting the Bobs to repeatedly ask "What would you say you do here?"
    • Milton is even more extreme, hanging around at Initech for five years without even technically having a job there — no one told him he'd been laid off, and due to an error in payroll, he was still receiving a paycheck until the Bobs fixed it.
  • Other Voices: Jeff, Anna's brother, seems to work in a Stock Exchange, but it's not clear what he does, as his sister has no idea what he does, he just says that he sets up lunch meetings and makes the company a lot of money.
  • Wag the Dog: Robert De Niro's character.
    "What exactly is it that you do for the President?"
  • In Silent Movie, Marty Eggs and Dom Bell are apparently part of Mel's Production Posse, but since the actual filming of Mel's movie is never shown, all they're ever shown doing is hanging around with Mel as he tries to book actors for the movie and set up the premiere screening once the filming is over.
  • The Josie and the Pussycats movie explicitly lampshades that Alexandra has no logical reason to be hanging out with the band except that she was in the comic book.
  • In Swashbuckler, the Woman of Dark Visage is obviously not part of Lord Durant's Paid Harem, and seems to hold an important position in Durant's court; to the point that Durant actually seems to be afraid of her at times. However, exactly what that position might be is anyone's guess. She is last seen vanishing into the night with Durant's body.

  • Dave Barry once described the job duties of a Lieutenant Governor as "wearing a suit and phoning the governor every day to see if he's dead".
  • In Catch-22, no one seems to know what Major —— de Coverly's official function is, and no one is game enough to ask him.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Because this is told in Greg's point of view, we never find out what Frank's job is. The Third Wheel reveals that he works in an office, though.
  • Discworld: Somehow, the wizards manage to be this despite in nearly all of their cases being known only by their titles, such as the Dean and the Senior Wrangler. Of course, the wizards are defined by being The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything anyway. One short story has Archchancellor Ridicully, who defines his job as being making everyone else do their job, trying to work out what exactly everyone's job is. They figure they must be doing something, otherwise he wouldn't have anything to administrate.
    Ridicully: That statement cuts at the heart of bureaucratic principle, Dean, and I shall ignore it.
  • In Dragon Blood, there is a character who hangs around in Hurog and makes himself useful (healing, teaching, etc), but doesn't hold an official job. This causes problems when someone refers to him as Ward's dragon, because while the term is technically correct, Ward rejects the implication that the character is his in any way. In Hurog, you don't own people, and Ward is very diligent about that. The fact that Oreg was bound by magic to serve him as slave is still a sore spot for Ward.
  • Katniss asks this question regarding the entire population of the Capitol in The Hunger Games.
  • Star Wars Legends: Some of the members of Wraith Squadron, most prominently Wes Janson and Falynn Sandskimmer in the team's eponymous novel. Both have a wide variety of skills (he's an Ace Pilot and a good shot, with a grab bag of commando skills from the earlier anything-goes days of the Rebel Alliance, she's a thief, lock-breaker, and all-around smeak who picked up plenty of experience as a street kid) but don't really excel in any one area. In Janson's case, he's ostensibly Wedge's Number Two, but Face and Kell are both being groomed very aggressively for that position and he's really the commander's moral support. In Falynn's, however, the trope turns tragic when, driven by her perceived inferiority, she tries to prove herself and takes too many risks on a mission with fatal consequences.

    Live-Action TV 
  • For most of the first season of 3rd Rock from the Sun, nobody knew why Harry was on the mission. They then revealed that he was the radio link with their home planet. He eventually gets sad about this fact, since he's essentially equipment. It was frequently implied that his main function was Team Pet. One ad for the series blatantly lampshaded this. It introduced each member of the team, and their role; Dick, the mission commander, Sally, the security officer, Tommy, the information officer, and Harry,, they had an extra seat.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Most of the people on Coulson's team have clearly-defined roles (May is a pilot, Skye is a hacker, Fitz is an engineer, etc.) but Triplett doesn't seem to have any specific purpose other than general badassery. It's mentioned at one point that he has medical training, but he never really uses it onscreen and the team's Medic is usually Simmons. Even as a fighter he's pretty redundant, since the show's go-to badasses are May, Ward, and Lance Hunter, they're usually the ones sent off to fight the bad guys while Triplett just stays behind at the base. One episode of season 2 has him subbing for May as the plane's pilot, apparently just to give him something to do.
    • In Season 2, he gets more to do with Ward being evil, until Hunter fills his position...and then dies at the end of the Fall Finale, Hunter taking the position of general badass, along with Bobbi.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Pilot", the Doctor has been working as a professor at the University of Bristol for at least 50, possibly 70, years. As Bill notes, no one's sure exactly what he teaches, as he's allowed to lecture on whatever he wants.
  • Jayne in Firefly is this in-universe. When Simon asks Mal what he pays Jayne for in the first episode, Mal flippantly replies "public relations." While it's never stated, he's basically The Big Guy and/or Dumb Muscle who's not quite as dumb as he acts. He's also the team's sniper, and according to a flashback about when they hired him an excellent tracker and bounty hunter (albeit one easily bought off by his targets). Given how the crew of Serenity tends to get on with the public (well, an evil empire, amoral criminals, a backwards town and space zombies), Jayne usually does end up involved in solving their problems in that field.
  • Ground Floor: No one knows what Tori does in the office. She only comes in to sleep after spending the night clubbing and is only seen awake when she's goofing off with the rest of the maintenance staff.
    Jenny: Threepeat, you know who's fluent in Mandarin is Tori.
    Threepeat: Are you serious? Can you spare her for a day so she can teach me?
    Jenny: Spare her? We don't even know what she does!
  • In the HBO mini-series John Adams, the title character laments that the office of Vice President of the United States seems an awful lot like this, which is Truth in Television, as the only official job responsibilities of the Vice President are to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate and to take over if the President dies in office - and until William Henry Harrison died, that second one wasn't even a given (it became one of the Vice President's duties mostly because John Tyler insisted on being the actual President instead of "Acting President"). Some Presidents have averted this by finding other duties for their Vice President to perform, and others played it straight by essentially ignoring them once the election's over.
  • Jonathan Creek, at least in the sense that he seems to wear an awful lot of hats in his day-job as designated sane person and the guy who makes most of the tricks work for the Adam Klaus Magic Show. Is he the stage manager, set designer, senior special effects technician or all three? It doesn't help that he's been referred to by at least two different job descriptions in two different episodes, both of them rather vague. Promotional materials usually call him a "magician's assistant".
  • On Necessary Roughness Niko does not seem to have an official position in the Hawks football organization but is involved in most of the big decisions. He is a close friend of the team's owner Marshall Pittman and acts as a general "fixer" for any problems that require extreme discretion and cannot be handled through official channels.
  • This could easily apply to a few characters on The Office (US) but Gabe Lewis deserves special mention. When first introduced, he announces that he is the "Coordinating Director for Emerging Regions", but what this actually means is never clearly defined. While it means he reports directly to the CEO, Jo, it apparently does not grant him any actual power, nor does he have any clearly defined day-to-day duties at Sabre-Dunder Mifflin Scranton.
  • Star Trek franchise:
    • In the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Worf and Geordi's duties apart from "all-purpose junior officer" are pretty vague. They can sometimes be seen at the conn or tactical stations or as part of away missions. They're given more defined roles after being promoted to chief of Security and Engineering respectively.
      • Data is officially the ship's Operations Officer, but what this role entails is never clearly defined, and thus Data is often shown working in several different departments including Science, Engineering, and Medical, as a result of his extremely large knowledge base. He's also the ship's Second Officer, putting him third in the chain of command after Picard and Riker. When he is at his station, doing his actual job, it seems to boil down to "scan for lifeforms", which is usually the job of the Science Station.
    • Once Worf moves to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine his job duties become unclear once again. His title is "Strategic Operations Officer" and the duties are described as "coordinating all Starfleet activity within the sector", which sounds like a job for an administrator that would take up a lot of time. However, we never see him performing this duty. Instead, we see him performing almost any other job, such as small arms recalibration, communications duties, security related issues, and, most often, acting as XO aboard the Defiant (even being referred to as "first officer" of the Defiant in one episode), but even then, Kira and Dax filled that part more often than him. It was fairly obvious to viewers that Worf's "job" was little more than an excuse to have him join the show. Even in-universe the job's primary function was "keep our one Klingon officer from resigning and emigrating to a third party during our war with the Klingons."
  • Torchwood: Not even Ianto Jones' colleagues can give a clear answer to what his official job title is. They variously describe it as tea-boy, driver, maintenance man, janitor, archivist, and suit mannequin. He's also shown to be a competent field agent, taking active combat and investigative roles and providing technical support in later series.
  • The West Wing has Ed and Larry. Rarely (if ever) seen apart, they appear to be mid-level advisors but have also advised the President personally. No one really knows what their job titles are.
  • Cheers: Rebecca Howe became the manager of the bar when Sam had retired. Upon his return as bartender, and especially after he became co-owner with her, her duties were so fuzzy that Carla actually asked "What does she do around here?"
  • The Dropout: Elizabeth's brother is brought on as the "Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives" at Theranos. Judging by the glares of his co-workers, no one knows exactly what that means.
  • It's a Running Gag on Martin that one knows what, if anything, Tommy does for a living, and he's weirdly close-lipped about it while also frequently hinting that it's something really cool and important.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, we don't tend to see the Gang work often, but we can usually pick out their roles in the bar: Mac is a wannabe bouncer, Charlie is the janitor, Frank owns the bar and tends to run finances, and Dennis is co-owner. Dee, on the other hand, tends to bounce between "bartender" and "waitress", and pretty much every time her role as such has been alluded to, she's clearly not even trying to do it. In one episode, Mac and Dennis asked her what role she filled, and the closest thing she provided was that her ability to open beers qualified her to tend the bar. They then asked her to mix a drink, and she attempted to dodge the question for a few seconds before giving up and quitting her job on the spot.
  • Diplomatic Immunity plays this for laughs, as it's a Work Com set in an embassy (for the fictional kingdom of Fe'ausi) - but it's vague on what most of the employees do. Jonah is the ambassador, but he's the king's brother and was given the position out of nepotism. It seems to be a similar case with Suga and Malepe. Mick is there mainly as a cover for his shady business deals. Meanwhile Kirsty the receptionist appears to be the only one who does any legitimate work in the embassy. Leighton meanwhile is forced to work there by his superiors, while Leilani is Jonah's daughter and is being ordered to stay there by the king.
  • Psych: After Henry comes out of retirement, his official job in the Police Department is "Manager of the Consultants." Even he's not entirely certain what that actually means or where he sits on the chain of command, but it's pretty well understood that his real job is "Keeping Shawn's antics to a manageable level."
  • WandaVision: Played for drama; Vision's coworkers claim he's good at his job, Vision has absolutely no idea what he even does for a living nor what Computational Services, Inc. does (they don't make, buy, or sell anything), and is the first sign that something's off about Westview.
  • Conan: It's a running gag that no one seems to know what associate producer Jordan Schlansky does all day, and no one can get a straight answer out of him, apart from "various duties" and the like, and that it is not his responsibility to inform anyone, including his superiors, what that entails. Thankfully this gets him the unofficial job of being tortured by Conan for laughs.
  • An unusual villainous example comes from Power Rangers RPM with General Crunch. Despite being a general, he's not in the field too often (though he can handle himself in a fight, surprisingly well in fact); it's usually Tenaya 7/15 who leads ground battles. Meanwhile, his fellow general, Shifter, is the primary creator of Venjix's attack bots (and following Shifter's going rogue, General Kilobyte takes his place). Crunch is mostly comic relief (and on one occasion, points out the flaws in Venjix's plans, which gets him blasted into a pile of scrap), though he does create a monster once when Venjix is absent (Tenaya and Shifter have their own plan), even beginning the growth download (and in a Call-Back to his genre savviness, immediately grows the attack bot once it gets to Corinth).

  • Dean Roland of Collective Soul is the rhythm guitarist. But half the time, so is his brother, Ed Roland, who is also the band's founder, lead vocalist, principle songwriter and occasional keyboard player. With Ed able to just as easily play guitar and sing at the same time, it almost seems like Dean is there only because his brother owns the band.
  • From "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Dog Eat Dog":
Nobody's sure what I do here
And ah, that's just fine with me
  • Sue-Ellise from the Girl Group Mis-Teeq rarely sang solos and never took lead vocals like Sabrina or rapped like Alesha - leading to fans questioning what she was doing in the group besides making it a trio (they had a fourth member but she left after the first single). More music savvy fans note that her low alto harmonies are there to compliment the higher vocals of the other two, and that three harmonies sound better than two. Word of God is that she acted as a choreographer for their routines, and was the most business savvy of the three.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • From 2009-2010 Vickie Guerrero was referred to as the 'Official Consultant' of Smackdown. Even though Smackdown had a General Manager in Teddy Long, Vickie still had some vague authority to be able to make matches and abuse power - save for moments when Teddy would overrule her. This was subverted when it got revealed that Vickie staged an accident for Teddy in an effort to seize power.
  • TNA had So Cal Val who would sit at ringside as an attendant and occasional timekeeper. She sometimes did ring announcing or backstage interviewing but TNA always had a designated person filling those roles. She also hosted a little tie-in web series called Pillow Talk briefly in 2010.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppet Show has most of the characters as cast and crew for Kermit's variety show, but it's never clear what purpose Sam the Eagle serves within that structure, as his backstage role as censor appears to be entirely self-appointed and has next to no effect on the show. Nor does he seem to do much onstage apart from a very occasional pompous editorial.
    Sam: I suppose you know why I am here.
    Kermit: To tell the truth, Sam, I've never known why you're here.

    Video Games 
  • Astral Chain has Marie Wentz, the only member of Neuron without some sort of specialization and/or potential as a Legionis. Sure, she does administrative scout work, but one wonders why a special police unit operating with secret clearance brought in a nobody traffic officer to do that. Some endgame files hint Yoseph just needed enough warm bodies at desks to get Neuron recognized, so he hired a useful idiot and promptly forgot Marie existed.
  • Varric Tethras is the embodiment of this trope in the Dragon Age games.
    • The topic comes up in an early dialogue within Dragon Age II when Aveline asks Varric if he actually does anything except "watch and talk." He answers that "coins flow when I talk and when I shut up. Like if you got paid to guard or unguard." When Aveline says he isn't making any sense, Varric simply replies "Good." If you're wondering what he actually does, he publishes short stories and ends up in charge of his family's businesses (though he avoids Merchant's Guild meetings if at all possible). Oh, and he may or may not have a spy network at his disposal. His main job appears to be "information broker".
    • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, he confirms the existence of that spy network which was hinted in the previous game. However, he prefers to leave the actual role of The Spymaster to Leliana, because she's much better at it than he is; Varric admits to being a bit of a softy, and he tends to do things like worry about his informants' families.
      • Lampshaded by Vivienne, if the Inquisitor asks about her opinion of Varric.
        Vivienne: What exactly is Varric's role in the Inquisition? Aside from irritating Cassandra.
      • Varric also apparently handles a lot of the more exotic procurement issues thanks to his extensive trade contacts. For instance, he can supply Iron Bull with cocoa - something it seems that nobody else has ever heard of.
  • Final Fantasy X-2 has Brother: while he's officially the leader of the Gullwings and pilots the ship, Yuna is unofficially The Face of the crew (due to her fame) and is usually the one to make the big decisions, and as Rikku points out, the ship flies better on auto-pilot. She then lampshades the trope by wondering what Brother actually DOES for the crew. He did help form the Gullwings with Buddy, so presumably he did more before they acquired Rikku, Yuna, Paine and Shinra.
  • In Shizune's route of Katawa Shoujo, Hisao and Misha, Shizune's translator, have no official positions on the student council. Because of this, and the size of the student council, Shizune's father Jigoro has no respect for it.
  • Pac-Man in Namco High mainly seems to butt in on private moments and tell everyone concerned to be true to themselves. Even Principal Dig Dug has absolutely no idea what he's actually doing at their school besides the fact that everyone seems to like him.
  • Tomb Raider: Legend gives us Alister Fletcher, a man Lara is paying to talk to her over headset in order to...moan about the video quality, argue with his colleague, and generally stand around asking questions about things he should know already. The butler knows more than him. He supposedly does library research and runs errands.
  • Bendy and the Ink Machine: Non-character example. Everybody who worked at Joey Drew Studios were utterly baffled as to what the titular device was even there for. Chapter 5 reveals that the machine's purpose was to create living, life-sized cartoons, which....didn't go well.

  • Nebula: It's unclear if Mercury is Sun's assistant/gofer, if he's not and their jobs just happen to involve working with each other a lot, or if their jobs have little official overlap at all and they're just friends who talk together during the workday.
  • In Drowtales Faen's exact role in her squad is a bit murky. Due to her Empathic Healer powers you would think she was the healer, but that's actually Shala, and she rarely does any actual fighting (to the point she only carries a shield).

    Western Animation 
  • Initially, Bender from Futurama. It's addressed in the early episode "My Three Suns", and he's given the position of ship's cook. Even though he can't actually cook. However in later episodes he has been able to make edible meals, been referred to as a company asset rather than an employee, and in Bender's Big Score he's dubbed "Assistant Manager of Sales".
    Hermes: I've been going through our records and it seems that we've been paying you to do nothing but loaf about on the couch.
    Bender: You call that a couch? I DEMAND A PILLOW!
  • In an episode of Ren & Stimpy, Stimpy resolves to make a cartoon and Ren asks to join in, but laments that he has no talent. Stimpy tells him that this makes him perfect for the job of Producer, the person who "tells the artist what to do, and then when the cartoon's done, he gets all the credit!"
  • Jerry from Rick and Morty had a "job" at an office for a brief time where he had no idea what he was supposed to do. It was just a sham that existed because The Galactic Federation took over Earth and mandated full employment so they could "pay" everyone in pills they forced people to eat.
    Jerry: I just got my sixth promotion this week and I still don't know what I do!
  • Kevin of 3-2-1 Penguins!. His Establishing Character Moment in the very first episode, after the rest of the crew are introduced and their jobs explained, Jason asks what Kevin does, and at that moment Kevin accidentally gets himself sucked into a vacuum cleaner, and Zidgel says "Uh, mostly he just does that." He actually was assigned to the ship by mistake, as somebody thought he was trained in reading instruments, he actually was trained in playing musical instruments, but they kept him on the ship anyway to do various jobs and because he often proves to have useful skills on mission, such as in a few episodes where he translates alien languages.
  • Transformers: Animated: For most of the series it was unclear how skilled Cyber-Ninja Prowl fit in with a crew of Space Bridge repair bots. A flashback in the series finale revealed that he wasn't actually assigned to Optimus's repair team and he only joined them when they accidentally destroyed his ship.
  • As noted in the page quote, Soos in Gravity Falls has no job title. His duties can be summed up as "whatever Grunkle Stan needs done at the moment". At the end of the series, Stan hands over running the Mystery Shack to him.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: While her friends all have distinct jobs that they are frequently seen at, it's very unclear what precisely Fluttershy does for a living. Her main activity seems to be taking care of animals, but it's never shown if anyone is paying her to do that or if it's just something she does because she's passionate about it.

    Real Life 
  • Everybody on Earth knows who Walt Disney is. But what his actual profession was is far more difficult to describe. Many see him as a cartoonist and an animator, yet Disney drew his last drawing in 1926. Others claim he is a film director, but he only directed a minor few of his movies himself. He is often credited as a wonderful creator and storyteller, but most of the character designs, ideas and technical innovations were thought up and done by other people. The best description may be 'film producer', seeing that Walt invested millions of money in his cartoons and used the profits back for new projects. He could also combine the talents of many people and make them enthusiastic for each new project. And of course he was also a voice actor for his own studio, providing Mickey Mouse's vocals until his voice became hoarse from years of smoking. Walt frequently told the story of a little boy asking him what he did, and responding, "Sometimes I think of myself as a little bee. I go from one area of the studio to another and gather pollen and sort of stimulate everybody. I guess that’s the job I do.”
  • Some restaurants have someone, called a "roundsman" among other names, who floats from station to station during peak hours helping out where needed. At slower times their presence can resemble this trope.
    • At Thomas Keller's restaurants The French Laundry and Per Se, they added a secondary sous chef who would work the pass or float around as needed during busy periods, and otherwise just stand around. The cooks began calling it the 'SAS,' for Standing Around Station, but when Keller asked what it meant he was told Second Assistant Sous, liked the acronym, and made it official. So, to this day, somebody is always scheduled to the Standing Around Station, which can be very much this trope.
  • The position of a gofer, as in "I need something, so I'm sending you to go fer it." This person has no one single defined job, but does anything that needs to be done. Depending on the person they report to and what the project is that they're working on, this person can serve as a personal assistant, sound board operator, even an unofficial second-in-command.
  • This is generally the lot of a circus roustabout. Circus contracts usually include the passage "Employee will make himself useful as needed", which amounts to "If the boss comes up with a job, you do it". Circus workers refer to getting forced into random, meaningless labor as "working Chinese" (after the exploited Chinese laborers on the transcontinental railroad).
  • The job title of "Project Coordinator" can be vague even for those who have it. Alternatively, "Project Administrator", "Project Developmental Specialist"... really, anything with "Project" in the title, as they are, by design working on special projects that can vary from week to week, day to day, and hour to hour.
  • Chet Faliszek's job description:
    We are all still trying to figure out exactly what it is that Chet does at Valve, but at the very least he occupies office space on the 11th floor as self-proclaimed Mr. Awesome.
  • The question certainly arises in the case of many socialites, who just seem to appear at parties, festivities, TV panel shows, award shows and other public appearances and nothing else.
  • Depending on the employer, many security personnel are expected to do a very large number of administrative and menial tasks in addition to their more expected functions of locking, unlocking, inspecting, guarding, and patrolling buildings. Toggling blinds, turning on televisions, adjusting sound equipment, posting general management bulletins, and even light cleaning duties can be among them.
  • A lot of work-from-home jobs tend to gather this question for those unfamiliar, as, besides that sort of work being slightly uncommon, the nature of those jobs vary and tend to be hard to describe.
  • Bard's Tower is a company that coordinates and arranges writers' and artists' (called "the talent" during these operations) appearances at fandom conventions — including making sure they have copies of books to sell, advertising their appearances, making sure the talent has hotel space, and so on. In addition to the talent, the company's booths always employ someone whose official job title is "LoM-ToP" (it means Low-Man on the Totem Pole"). This person's job is essentially to fix any problems that come up for the talent, including fetching bottles of water and lunches, informing fans of the talents movements, and in one notable case, literally fighting off a crazed fan who tried to attack one of the visiting writers until the on-site security could get there.
  • At least two of the job types described in this essay could be this, and both are known to make up fake or dumbed-down job descriptions when discussing their work in social settings. The Laughingstock because their job is considered worthy of ridicule (even if it requires a great deal of skill, specialized licensure, and pays more than most of the people laughing at them make). And the Assistant Cromulationist, because their job is very technical and hard to describe, especially to people who are either Hopeless with Tech or just not familiar with that line of work.
  • Working in small nonprofits can also resemble this trope, as they don't have the resources for lots of specialized staff. One person can organize volunteers, write grants, begin and oversee projects, serve as general admin, go out and do recruitment, write publication materials, and sometimes even more.

Alternative Title(s): What Exactly Is Her Job