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Wrong Line of Work

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Usually, employers tend to hire someone whose skills and drive match the job that's available. But sometimes, people can end up in a job they are blatantly unsuited for, either by lacking the skills to accomplish it, or by having a mindset that would be better suited for some other position. This can be the result of an employer trying to fill a position with Closest Thing We Got, or because they just don't care enough to find the right candidate.

The employee in question can either be terrible at their misplaced position (resulting in Hilarity Ensues), or by a surprising stroke of luck, their unique methods can actually make them quite successful at it.

In rare cases, the person in question may actually admit they are unsuited for the job, but stick with it anyway. This can happen for several reasons:

See also Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher, where a teacher for older students inexplicably treats them like younger ones. Compare with Modern Major General, who is extremely competent at everything except his actual job. See also Cut Lex Luthor a Check. Can overlap with Nepotism if the person is only in their position because of a family member.

May also occur as a result of Klingon Promotion when the next highest ranked person in an organization is forced to take up the position of their superiors or Spare to the Throne if the job involves monarchy and the one next in line proves to be underqualified for the job. Compare with The Alleged Expert, Hero with an F in Good, Minion with an F in Evil, Under Strange Management, The Dilbert Principle and The Peter Principle.

No Real Life Examples, Please.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Heaven's Lost Property: Astraea, a Delta-type Angeloid is tasked by Synapse with killing Tomoki. Unfortunately, due to how Angeloids are made, she has tons of power at her disposal, but lacks the intelligence to be a successful killer and all her attempts are harmless and mediocre, such as trying to poison Tomoki with a laxative. She's also way too nice to actually kill anyone, as she even tends to help out Tomoki and the others when she is supposed to be their enemy.
  • Pokťmon: The Series: Team Rocket have often created or started working for a business in order to provide cover for their criminal activities. During this time, they prove more successful performing honest regular work than committing crimes, implying they would have better lives if they just gave up crime.
  • In Secret of Cerulean Sand, aboard the Armadillo, Jane Buxton and her butler-Private Teacher Chambellan were put, the former in the kitchens and the latter in tending to machines, and both sucked until they were switched.
  • Welcome to the NHK: Kaoru was born and raised at a dairy farm and didn't like that his family decided his future for him down to how he would work and who he will marry. As an act of rebellion, he moved to Tokyo to become a game designer. He learned the hard way that he has no talent after having a dismally low sale at his one and only convention as a vendor. The final nail to his dream was when his father was too sick to work and had to go back to Hokkaido. In the epilogue, he finally accepts the role of a dairy farmer and appears to have a stable life showing that it was what he was good at, which makes sense because he lived there.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Lantern: G'nort Esplanade Gneemascher is a doglike alien buffoon who was given a fake Green Lantern Ring by the Weaponers of Qward in an attempt to discredit the Corps. However, G'nort showed courage in helping to defeat the Qwardians, so he was nominated for membership in the Green Lantern Corps by Guy Gardner. He's still a buffoon, though, and is often sent on long missions, in isolated sectors, mostly to keep him from causing any trouble.
  • The French kid's comic Les 4 As had one story where each of the stereotypical heroes (nerd, Dumb Jock, Big Eater, ditzy beauty queen) got jobs that were clearly suited for one of the others (e.g. the jock working in a museum). By the end of the story, they'd all exchanged jobs and were doing far better at them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Animal Crackers: When Brock, Owen's coworker at the dog biscuit factory, is given the authority to do so, Brock assigns Owen to do accounting work. Owen makes it clear that he's not qualified to do this, as his only background is from a circus and his current job is a taste tester. Brock still forces Owen to do this menial work to bully him.
  • In I Lost My Body, Naoufel has artistic talent, but as an orphaned immigrant in France, he's stuck trying to get by as a pizza delivery boy, which he is terrible at. Later, he gets a job as an apprentice to a woodworker, but he only takes the job as an excuse to get close to his boss' daughter, and ends up losing his hand because he's too easily distracted.
  • The Incredibles: After Mr Incredible is forced into early retirement from being a superhero, he tries working as an insurance adjuster, but he hates the tedium of white-collar work, and his desire to be helpful to his customers causes him to make a loss for the company and get written up by his supervisor.
  • Monsters, Inc.:
    • In the prequel, Monsters University, Mike Wazowski wants to be the world's best scarer, but despite his encyclopedic knowledge of scare tactics, he has to face the Awful Truth that he's not frightening enough to be a scarer, and gives up on his dream career. In the first movie, it's Mike's knowledge that allows Sully to become the best scarer at Monsters Incorporated while working as his scare assistant, though after discovering that children's laughter is several times more powerful than scream Mike finds his true calling making children laugh as a comedian.
    • The book Monsters, Inc.: The Essential Guide explains that scare assistants are monsters that want to be directly involved with scream extraction, and most are happy not having to go into closet doors, while some, like Mike, tried out to become scarers, didn't make the cut, and had to settle for the next best thing.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Big Lebowski: The eponymous Jeffrey Lebowski has an office wall full of civic awards and honors... Which is all a smokescreen, as it's revealed he's terrible at running a business. Turns out he's much better at transferring company money to his own pocket via shady means.
  • In Happy Gilmore, the titular Happy dreams to be in a hockey team, but other than a (dangerously) powerful slapshot he can't actually play very well or even skate really. After discovering that his slapshot translates into an ability to drive a golf ball really really far, he goes to a local range to hustle people for a few bucks. He's spotted by a former pro golfer who convinces him to compete in a local tournament, which he wins. Although Happy initially joins a pro golf tournament to earn the money to buy back his grandma's house, which she lost due to owing back taxes, he eventually discovers that both his mentor and his press agent/Love Interest were right: he's a golfer, not a hockey player. When he puts in the time and effort to develop his short-game, he becomes one of the best.
  • In Moneyball, Billy Beane confesses that he should have never been a Major League baseball player right out of high school. He did not have enough rough talent to become a professional player and he soon flamed out. Instead, he should have accepted an athletic scholarship at Stanford which would have both made him a more seasoned player and given him a college degree that he could have used to point his life in a different direction if he chose not to pursue baseball professionally after college. On the other hand, he seems pretty content with his current job as the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics.
  • Mr. Majestyk advises low-level extortioner Bobby Kopas that he's ill-suited to the thuggery necessary for his racket. Then Majestyk kicks Bobby's ass. After the climactic showdown against professional mobsters, Bobby is the sole survivor at the cabin. As the sheriff arrests and puts Bobby in the car, Majestyk once more advises him, "You're in the wrong line o' work, kid."

  • Animorphs: Visser Three initially just appears to be a Stupid Evil General Failure as he attempts to lead the Yeerk Empire in an secret invasion of Earth. However, he is a skilled fighter who makes resourceful use of his morphing abilities and flashbacks show that he's fairly capable as a tactician in combat scenarios. His incompetence stems not from stupidity but from the fact that he isn't suited for infiltration tactics and would have been better off fighting on a front with an open war.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Damuel is more suited for scholar work than for a knight's work, but his family is quite poor and his older brother a better scholar than him, so he became a knight to widen his family's business.
  • In Captain Underpants Mr. Krupp is a curmudgeon of a principal who absolutely despises children and runs Jerome Horwitz Elementary School in a way akin to a penitentiary. He only picks teachers and faculty that can share in his idea of torturing children and making them feel miserable all while maintaining a setting where knowledge and order is emphasized at every moment. Obviously as his alter-ego Captain Underpants is the exact opposite of Mr. Krupp in every way.
  • Lampshaded in The Fall of Giants, first book of The Century Trilogy, in which it's noted that the British government made Sir Edward Grey the Foreign Secretary despite the fact that he dislikes most foreigners and almost never travels overseas.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Gilderoy Lockhart accepts the job of Hogwart's Teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts (a post which no-one else wants since the position is rumored to be cursed), despite lacking the magical skill to subdue a swarm of pixies. The end of the book reveals that he's a Fake Ultimate Hero who's career was built on taking credit for the deeds of others, and that the only magic he's ever had a talent for is memory charms.
  • Incompetence takes place in The United States Of Europe, where Political Overcorrectness has reached Dystopian Edict levels, and laws have been passed that forbid the discrimination of people based on race, class, gender, creed or competence. Thus, a society has been born where everyone is bad at their job because employers aren't allowed to use someone's actual ability to do the job as a reason to hire/fire someone. Most shoes are made of vegetable matter, a hotel room will only have furniture in it if you're lucky (and be completely non-existent if you're not), and signposts rarely agree with each other, let alone point the correct way.
  • Outcast of Redwall: The Head Cook of Salamandastron makes terrible food and only keeps the job because Someone Has to Do It. When a new Badger Lord takes over, the Cook is soon happily reassigned to brewmaster, a job he enjoys and is excellent at.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Robert Baratheon was a glorious fighter and general who managed to overthrow the Targaryen Dynasty, which had reigned for centuries. Unfortunately, he then became King, and turned out to be terrible at actually ruling his kingdom.
  • Warrior Cats: There are a few cases where a cat starts training to be a warrior and then realizes that they're not great at it and that they'd be more gifted at being a medicine cat, or vice versa. Notably, in The Sight, Jaypaw starts training as a warrior and Hollypaw starts as a medicine cat apprentice, but they come to realize that they'd be better at the opposite job and come to Firestar nearly at the exact same time to request to change.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Better Call Saul: Saul Goodman is not an ideal lawyer but makes commercials people like and seems very knowledgeable in film making; there was even an episode where he offered to make commercials for others because he got in trouble with his lawyer shenanigans. It can be argued that he makes a better salesman than a lawyer because he was able to move sales of phones nobody was buying. It helps that salesmanship does not require telling the truth, compared to law.
  • Boy Meets World: Cory's dad, Alan, owns a grocery store and hates it. The only reason he got the job is because his own father had owned it and had given him a job, then promoted him several times until he took over running it. After several seasons, he sells the store and becomes owner of a sporting goods store, which he enjoys much more than the grocery store.
  • Dad's Army: Mr. Mainwaring, formerly a competent (if uptight) bank manager, ends up becoming a highly incapable Army officer after lying about his service history.
  • In one episode of Diagnosis: Murder, Jesse chews out one of the student doctors he's training for not checking a patient's chart, and almost administering her medication that could have killed her. By the end of the episode, it's revealed that only reason the student has lasted this long is because his father is also a doctor and wants his son to follow him into medicine, and has been secretly helping him cheat on the medical exams.
  • The Doctor Who episode "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" implies that this is the case for Karl, a tower crane operator with a fear of heights, and low self-esteem that seems to be caused by him being unsuited to his job (he has to listen to a recorded motivational speech, telling him his contribution is valued, while working). It's also implied that he only got the job through Nepotism, as he mentions several times that the company he works for is owned by his dad.
  • Family Matters:
    • The episode "Best Friends" features Eddie, at the time manager of the local fast food joint "Mighty Weenie", giving Waldo a job after being fired from several others. The problem is that Waldo is The Ditz and he proceeds to mess up every task assigned to him, putting Eddie in the dilemma of possibly having to fire his best friend. It's not until a talk with Carl that Eddie realizes that the issue isn't Waldo being bad at his job, but Eddie giving him jobs he's bad at. Once he understands this, Eddie puts Waldo, a naturally gifted Supreme Chef, behind the fryer where he excels.
    • When Eddie asks for Carl's advice in "Best Friends" on what to do about possibly having to fire Waldo, the example Carl gives to demonstrate how he should help Waldo play to his strengths is his old partner, who was miserable as a beat cop. However, he was soon transferred to being a mugging decoy, where he would be Disguised in Drag to lure out potential muggers and purse-snatchers. Carl notes that he'd never seen his partner happier.
  • Fargo: Season One: Gus Grimly is a well-meaning but incompetent police officer, and his natural timidity sets off the plot when Lorne Malvo intimidates him into letting Malvo go at a traffic stop. His department often uses him to sub for animal control, and he himself admits to Molly he didn't want to be a cop but a friend talked him into it; after the Time Skip we see him working his dream job as a mailman. He ultimately redeems himself by getting the drop on Malvo and killing him.
  • Fawlty Towers: Basil Fawlty became a hotel proprietor - an occupation he is completely, utterly, woefully, unfit for, in every possible way.
  • In Filthy Rich, Eric Monreaux is a nice guy and a beautiful singer, but following the apparent death of his father, he feels compelled to make a go at taking over the family business, where he proves to be a Horrible Judge of Character, letting his pastor brother-in-law steer him into a needless conflict with his mother, who inherited control of the company.
  • Game of Thrones ends with several examples of people in positions they're not qualified for:
    • Bran becomes King on the flimsy grounds of him having no ambition for the throne and having the best "story". He has very limited experience as a leader and, after becoming the Three Eyed Raven, he's a sociopath who creeps out everyone he talks to. What makes this glaring is that the position of Master of Whisperers is left open, even though he'd be much better-suited to that position.
    • Bronn becomes Lord of Highgarden and Master of Coin. As a common-born sellsword, he has no experience or training as a lord at all, and there's no indication he knows anything about finance (an earlier episode had him not know what a loan was). This is again glaring because there's a position he'd be better-suited for (Master of War).
    • Gendry becomes Lord of Storm's End even though, like Bronn, he's common-born and has no experience or training for the job (he was raised as a blacksmith).
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall is forced to fire an incompetent employee named Randy but later feels guilty about it and convinces his boss to let him rehire the guy. However, it turns out Randy wanted to get fired because the severance package would give him the financial security he needed to follow his dream of opening a craft beer brewery. After failing to get Marshall to re-fire him by trashing his office, Randy apologizes for his behavior and offers Marshall one of his homemade beers as a peace offering. When Marshall tastes it, he loves it and realizes Randy is a genuinely talented beer maker. He fires him again and Future Ted reveals that Randy's brewery became a roaring success.
  • In Law & Order, Serena Southerlyn is eventually fired from her job as an ADA because she keeps empathizing with defendants in the cases that she and Jack McCoy are prosecuting.
  • In Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Munch is initially partnered with Brian Cassidy, a nice young guy who turns out to be a terrible fit for dealing with the kind of violent crimes that the SVU investigates. After he breaks down from investigating a gang rape, Capt. Cragen helps him transfer over to Narcotics. It's mentioned more than once that this is a common occurrence in the SVU; most detectives can only put in a few years there before the horrors of the job - and the inability to discuss them with loved ones - burns them out.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • "Too Many Cooks" - Private Paul Conway is a terrible infantryman, who is almost as dangerous to his own unit as the enemy. However, it turns out he's also a gourmet chef who can turn even Army food into a decent meal. It's just the Army being...well, the Army...that they made him a soldier. He eventually gets a transfer back to his old unit as their cook.
    • "Your Retention, Please" had a corpsman who was deeply bitter with the Army and nearly got into a fistfight with a recruiting officer looking to get him to reenlist. He hotly tells the recruiter that back home he was a fully qualified surgical nurse, but because he was a man and the Army only offers commissions to female nurses he was forced to enlist as a Private and serves in a role where his skills are less useful.
  • Played for laughs by Bob Fossil in Season 1 of The Mighty Boosh, who acts as Zoo Manager of the Zooniverse despite having extreme Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies and knowing nothing about any of the animals, to the point that he often forgets their names and has to resort to Buffy Speak phrases when describing them, such as calling the elephant "the grey leg-faced man, who has legs and another leg on his face."
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: The Barber from the "Lumberjack" sketch suffers from a chronic fear of seeing hair being cut, and the only reason he ended up being a barber was because of his mother, who sent him to a hairdressing school in a failed attempt to get him to conquer his phobia.
  • The Office (US):
    • Michael Scott is a better salesman than he is a manager. When he held a secret second job as a telemarketer, he was able to connect with his clients; a far cry from his management position in which he uses to try and make friends with his employees which may not be the best idea. When he was fired from Dunder-Mifflin, he started his own paper company and we get to see his salesmanship shine once again and win over prospective clients.
    • Kevin has a lot of talents like cooking, drumming, and playing poker. However, he is a poor fit as an accountant, especially since outside of special circumstances he's practically innumerate. He didn't even apply for the job in the first place, only getting it because Michael felt he could do better than being a grunt in the warehouse. In the Series Finale he finds fulfillment as a bar owner after Dwight fires him.
  • Open All Hours: Grenville, a man who dreams of romance and travelling the world, grudgingly (and poorly) runs a backstreet neighbourhood general store, mostly because he cannot break away from his overbearing uncle, who needs a cheap assistant.
  • Parks and Recreation: As a straw libertarian, Ron does not like his job because he has a disdain for the government and does his best to be as inefficient as possible. In the series finale, he switched to being a national park ranger which, despite being a government position, he really enjoys because it lets him enjoy the outdoors begrudgingly admitting this is the one thing the government got right.
  • In the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode on Astrology, a woman gets a pair of astrological readings to get help deciding what type of job she should get. Penn himself lampshades how useless the two readings would be by describing it as "the least we could do".
    • For the first reading, the astrologist lists off a massive number of jobs, which is completely useless to her for actually making a decision.
    • The second astrologist insists the woman become a teacher. Afterwards, the woman tells the camera that she absolutely hates children and has no interest in becoming a teacher.
  • On Person of Interest, flashbacks show that Sameen Shaw once trained to be a doctor. Shaw has a medical condition that suppresses her emotions and makes it very hard for her to feel things like happiness, sadness or grief. After a particularly bad death notification incident (Shaw telling a family their son died as she was eating a snack, which understandably pissed off said family), her supervisor told her that someone with Lack of Empathy really should not be a doctor. She took this advice to heart and switched professions to government assassin.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Rimmer dreams of becoming an officer, a dream which is undermined by the fact that he lacks any of the skills required for such a position, and barely has the skills necessary for his current position of "Second Technician". One chapter of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers delves deeper into this, pointing out that Rimmer simply isn't cut out for a career in the Space Corps. The same chapter also reveals that he has a talent for artistry (creating revision timetables that could be considered minor works of art), implying that his true calling could have been found in a position like graphics design, or cartography.
    • In "Timewave", the SS Enconium, a 24th Century ship, is shifted into the Dwarfers' time. In the time they came from, criticism has been outlawed, with anyone who breaks the law being arrested. This has given the crew free reign to take on whatever jobs they want, regardless of ability, with hairdressers becoming navigators, and doctors being lift technicians. As a result, the ship is a total mess, not to mention on the verge of crashing into a moon.
  • Scrubs: Doug is an inept doctor, killing many patients. Eventually he finds success as a coroner. Since he's such a horrible doctor, he's seen patients die (often by killing them) in many many ways, which comes in handy as a coroner.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Nog and his father Rom are members of the Ferengi, a Proud Merchant Race who believe that attaining profit is the most important thing in the universe. Rom is a mechanical genius, who could've easily become chief engineer of a starship. But as Nog (who chose to be the first Ferengi to join Starfleet) laments, his father decided to pursue profit like a "good Ferengi", and proved himself unable to achieve any kind of business success whatsoever.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Learning Curve", Tuvok takes four Maquis crewmembers who are not adjusting to Starfleet protocols or procedures in favor of doing things "the Maquis way" and runs them through a Starfleet "boot camp" to get them to shape up.
    • In "Good Shepherd", Janeway takes three poor performing Starfleet crew on an away mission to try and get them to improve. The mission goes horribly awry and it's up to them to save the captain and get back to the ship. It's even noted in the episode they don't have the luxury of just transferring or discharging them and so the senior staff just has to work on getting them up to standard.
  • Ted Lasso's plot is kicked off by the titular Ted Lasso, an American college football coach, being hired to coach an association football team in England; naturally, Ted is ignorant about association football, and his hiring is part of the club owner's scheme to get back at her abusive ex-husband by ruining the club since it's the only thing he loves. However, while Ted still struggles to catch on to the finer points of the sport over a year after being the team's manager, he recognizes the gaps in his knowledge, so he's able to build a solid coaching staff to help fill those areas while he focuses on building a great team culture. By the end of Season 2, he's able to bring the team back into the Premier League after getting relegated in his first season while also leading the team to their best ever placement in The FA Cup.
  • The Thundermans: Principal Bradford couldn't care less about his faculty or students, and is implied to have only taken on the job because he had no other options.
  • Watchdog, a BBC consumer guide series, showed how maintaining iPhones was something two brothers in Leicester were clearly not cut out for and were only in it with Money, Dear Boy in mind, after a string of phones either exploding or batteries wearing thin quickly.
  • The late Stan Lee hosted Who Wants to Be a Superhero? starting in 2007. One contestant dubbed himself the Iron Enforcer, and made a middling effort in the trials, resulting in elimination. The Stinger, however, had Lee proposition Enforcer to become the series supervillain instead, a role he took up with relish.
  • Married... with Children provides Al Bundy, a Butt-Monkey and Jaded Washout who had big dreams of being a football star but was condemned to spend his life selling womens' shoes. He hates the job and is terrible at it, partly because he thinks he was meant for better things, doesn't think selling shoes is really a "man's job" and is disgusted by how many of his customers are fat. He constantly insults them for their weight (and it's implied he literally cannot stop himself even when he tries) and rarely ever sells anything.
  • Perry Mason (2020): Perry Mason is a private detective, but he's frankly terrible at it since he's too confrontational and emotional to avoid pissing off people he really needs to keep on his good side for the sake of an investigation. However, these same qualities make him an excellent lawyer because they give him tremendous presence in the courtroom and enough charisma to get the jury in his side.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: As most Imperial worlds are Single Biome Planets, Imperial Guard regiments from there are often very good at fighting in their native environment (ice, desert, jungle...). Unfortunately, given the dangers of Warp travel, the ever-warring state of the Imperium and the incompetence of the Munitorum, regiments are more often than not sent to completely unfamiliar environments to fight in, on a "closest to theater of operations" mentality.

  • Death of a Salesman:
    • The tragedy of Biff Loman is that he found success and contentment as a farmhand, but because it's not the kind of lifestyle that his father Willy considers "successful", he abandoned that job and is instead struggling to survive as a businessman, which he hates and has no proficiency at, just to impress Willy.
    • Willy himself is an even better example. He insists on trying to make it as a salesman even when he's not that skilled at it, when it's implied he'd have been much better off as a carpenter or handyman.

    Video Games 
  • The Vestal in Darkest Dungeon is trying her best to be a pious and chaste nun, but her repressed sexual desires interfere with her holy duties, not just the "chastity" part. In a comic showing her backstory, she was scolded by one of her superiors for allowing a sacred fire to die out due to her lusting over an intimate couple.
  • Fallout: New Vegas: Although the Brotherhood of Steel generally chooses its elders from members of the paladin caste, a specific exception was made for Elder Elijah, a member of the scribe caste, in recognition of his affinity for machines and ability to figure out how a piece of old tech works just by looking at it. This turned out to be a mistake at the battle of Helios One, when Elijah, who never had the tactics training of a paladin and had an extreme disregard for the welfare of his sub-ordinates, ordered the Brotherhood to hold a tactically disadvantageous position against a numerically superior foe, resulting in a humiliating defeat that cost the Brotherhood the lives of some of their best soldiers and some of their most valuable old tech resources.
  • Fallout 4: The DJ of the local radio station, Travis Miles, has extreme confidence and self-esteem issues and difficulties communicating with others, making his broadcasts sound very unprofessional. His friend Vadim enlists the Player Character to help Travis in a Confidence Building Scheme, after which he becomes a lot better at his job.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Felicia is rather lacklustre at being a maid due to her extreme clumsiness, but is actually much better as a fighter, much to her dismay as Felicia tries hard at her job and is not very interested in being a soldier. After the war is over, Felicia's paired endings have her quit being a maid and becoming a military commander instead.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses has several characters who are training very studiously to become knights in order to improve their or their families' socio-economic situation, but it is clear to everyone that their real talents lie elsewhere. Of particular note are Raphael and Ignatz, two merchant sons pushed by familial circumstances into a military career, even though one is a much better cook, while the other is a genius painter. After the war, as long as they survive, their solo endings see them leave the military and dedicate themselves to their respective civilian careers.
  • Jacquelin, the protagonist of Going Under, signs up to work for a marketing internship. She ends up being forced to go underground to fight monsters from failed tech startups instead.
  • One flashback sequence in Hades shows that Hades once tried to get his son Zagreus to contribute to the Bureaucracy of the Afterlife by getting him a job in the administrative chamber of Tartarus... it quickly becomes apparent that Zag has no talent or patience for bureaucratic paperwork, and chafes under his father's Control Freak tendencies. After Zagreus manages to escape the Afterlife and reach the mortal world several times, Hades decides the best use for his son's talents is to employ him as a security contractor - Zag can continue to try and escape the afterlife as much as he pleases, and Hades can analyze his escape attempts and use the data gathered to prevent escapes by the souls of the dead.

    Visual Novels 
  • Amazingly, Daughter for Dessert gives two examples for the exact same job:
    • Defied by the protagonist when he hires Saul to run the kitchen when he and Amanda are about to travel to Whiskeyville. He spends a bunch of late nights training the now-unemployed lawyer for the job, and Saul does pretty well.
    • Zigzagged with Lily when she gets hired as the dinerís cook. The protagonist has to be be very patient with her, especially since Amanda wants to fire her for her poor performance in the kitchen. Ultimately, though, Lily learns to cook up to the dinerís standard.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Chorus Federal Army General Donald Doyle is terrible at his job, having little to no combat experience and flees at the first sign of danger. Justified in that he was originally the personal secretary to the brigadier, having been forced into the position he's in now after everyone who outranked him either died or ran off.
    • Doc is frequently shown to be largely incompetent at his job as a medic, providing treatments to injured soldiers that either don't work or make the problem worse. He is shown to be far better as an actual soldier than a medic, being able to fight just as well as the rest of the Reds and Blues under the right circumstances.

    Web Comics 
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: This is a dodged bullet for Emil. In his youth, he was studying to be an academic with private tutors. When his wealthy family lost its money, he switched to public school and implicitly did poorly because the private tutors had failed to teach him properly. After that, he decided to enlist into the Demolitions Expert branch of the army, mostly because it suited his Mad Bomber and Pyromaniac tendencies well. In the first arc of the story proper, he joins an expedition that is officially doing research, but actually scavenging for books from The Beforetimes in Urban Ruins. Emil doesn't show any interest in the research material nor the books themselves and has poor book-selecting skills, while being a Know-Nothing Know-It-All about The Beforetimes on a good day. All this indicates that he would have made a poor academic even if he hadn't dropped out of the career path.
  • Zoophobia: Cameron, a neurotic young woman with an immense fear of animals, is hired as a guidance counselor at the Zoo-Phoenix Academy, which happens to be both staffed and attended by multiple humanoid animals (or Shapeshifters who take on animal-like forms). While she has a genuine desire to help others, living her worst nightmare every day often leaves her too terrified to actually help any students seeking guidance.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Brian Lewis, the Principal of Steve's school, is absolutely terrible at his job, showing very little concern for his students, and being perfectly willing to take advantage of their talents to achieve his own goals. Several episodes make it clear that Lewis is a former convicted criminal, and that he saw far more success in his old line of work than the new.
  • Angry Birds: Summer Madness: Lynette, the director of Camp Splinterwood, has very little interest in making the camp fun (and openly admits that she hates the sound of kids at play). It's made quite clear that she only runs the camp for the money.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold:
    • G'nort's origins are slightly different in this series: He had an influential uncle who pulled some strings to get him the job. The Guardians of the Universe, well aware of G'nort's lack of ability, assigned him to a sector of space with no intelligent life, so he wouldn't cause any problems. But despite being just as big a buffoon as his comics counterpart (even needing to write the Green Lantern oath on his arm), he is still noble and dedicated to his work.
    • Ronnie Raymond is a college physics professor who dresses and talks like a football coach. While he is fully knowledgeable of the subject he is teaching, he tends to use football terms to describe it, confusing his students to no end.
  • Bob's Burgers: Phillip Frond is the guidance counselor of Wagstaff School, and is utterly terrible at his job. He is both unable and unwilling to connect with the students on any level, and has no patience for any troublemakers (such as Louise). He is more interested in making a name for himself through his multiple ridiculous "programs", which he hopes will put him in the history books.
  • Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers: In "Short Order Crooks," a pair of burglars attempt to tunnel into a bank vault, using a derelict diner as cover. When Monterey Jack tries to use the diner's facilities to brew some cheddar chowder, the result is the crooks have to really serve customers, many of which are police officers from the nearby precinct station. It turns out Monty's chowder attracts enough customers to make the diner lucrative.
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "Sky-Hi I.Q.," the Vulture Squadron is taking aptitude tests, and afterwards, I.B. Smartley (the efficiency expert assigned to assess the Squadron) makes his judgment:
    Smartley: Mr. Dastardly, Mr. Klunk and Mr. Zilly, you are definitely in the wrong business. Have you ever thought of taking up plumbing?
  • Disenchantment: Zog is the King of Dreamland, but his ability to run the kingdom leaves much to be desired for, as he treats his subjects like crap and is prone to making decisions that can be harmful to the kingdom (and a lot of times himself), earning the hatred of most of his subjects. Justified, as the only reason Zog is even king is because his brother died before he could take the throne, and even admits that he wasn't all that interested in taking the position anyway, as he was much more suited to remaining a warrior than a ruler.
  • The Dreamstone has Rufus, the protagonist, being Mr. Imagination in all his jobs and getting fired from all of them due to that. Only when he gets a job working with the Dream Wizard does he find a job he's suited for. In the show's Fan Fics, this is one of The Stations of the Canon that cannot be avoided and is sometimes revisited in Flashback scenes.
  • DuckTales (2017): "The Lost Cargo of Kit Cloudkicker!" introduces a grown-up version of the Kid Sidekick from TaleSpin. In his Hero Worship, Kit has followed in Baloo's footsteps and become a pilot running a delivery service, but he's not that great at it. By the end, he decides to give it up and accepts Molly's offer of doing his cloud-kicking stunts with her air show.
  • Family Guy: Several of the show's signature cutaway gags revolve around this idea, with such examples as Darth Vader working as a meter maid, or Edward Scissorhands acting as a babysitter.
  • Fish Hooks:
    • Coach Sammons is a high school sports coach whose flamboyant, overly friendly and encouraging attitude, coupled with his love of singing and performing, makes it clear he'd probably be more effective as an acting or drama teacher. He runs the football team (granted, to some success) more akin to a dance troupe.
    • By contrast, Mr Muscles, the school's actual drama teacher, while supportive and friendly, has a terrifying deep voice, authoritative nature and muscular physique that would probably be more effective as a gym teacher (his attempt to reassure Albert not to give up on his dreams after failing to get the part just leaves him in tears because of how harsh he sounds).
  • Grossology: A Running Gag has the Director demonstrating this trope, as he is almost never on the same page (or even in the same book for that matter) as his employees, a frequent user of Insane Troll Logic, is prone to easily getting grossed out at the smallest of things, and is always trying to take credit for Ty and Abby's work despite hardly doing anything other than briefing them on missions. Despite all of this, he does care about his subordinates and is always there for them in their times of need.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch: The movie director in "(Whatever Happend To) Goldilocks and the Three Bears" has to deal with quitting actors and a tempermental star who tells him to find three new actors as the bears or he's fired.
    Director: I should've been a plumber like my mother wanted.
  • I.N.K. Invisible Network of Kids: Ms. Macbeth is grossly incompetent at teaching, often feeding her students misinformation on subjects while assigning them copious amounts of impossibly hard work to do in a short timespan. She is however, much more proficient and knowledgeable at the jobs and methods she uses when doing any kind of Evil Plan to take over the school.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: The croc bandits are very lousy at their profession despite their best efforts, but under the right circumstances have been shown to excel in other fields of work, such as being pretty good at kung fu when trained in it.
  • Monsters at Work
    • This is the main driving force of Tylor's role in the show. He trained all his life to get into Monsters Inc. as a Scarer, only to find out that the job itself has been replaced with 'Jokester' the day before he was due to enroll. As a result, Tylor is assigned to MIFT and has to learn an entire new skillset on the job, which he isn't suited to due to his clumsiness and having no mechanical experience. He only gets the job due to an offhand comment about his parents owning a hardware store, even though he canít even wrench a simple nut when he starts out.
    • Sulley has spent most of his life doing physical work as a Scarer, and is surprised and overwhelmed when he finds out that the board of directors have decided to make him and Mike the new CEOs of Monsters Inc.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • The Flim-Flam Brothers are business-savvy, charismatic, and really know how to play to a crowd. If they just stuck to legitimate business ventures, they would easily be comfortably well-off for the rest of their lives. Instead, they use their talents for scams and con jobs, due to wanting to make as much as possible right away. These cons are often exposed and dismantled, leaving them with next to nothing to show for their efforts.
    • This is the premise of the season 3 finale, "Magical Mystery Cure." Twilight has accidentally swapped the cutie marks of her friends, without swapping their corresponding personality traits or skills. This leads to situations like Shrinking Violet Fluttershy thrust into Pinkie Pie's role of Party Planner and Fashionista Rarity taking on Rainbow Dash's job of controlling the weather. Twilight has to nudge them back into the proper jobs by having them help their friends.
    • This is also the gist of the Cutie Mark Crusaders' storylines. A pony's cutie mark appears when he or she discovers his or her unique special talent. Rather than pursue activities that actually line up with their interests/skills, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle instead focus on trying random activities hoping that one of them will somehow stick. It's not until they finally settle on a task they actually enjoy that they receive their cutie marks (ironically enough, it's helping other ponies understand their own cutie marks).
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: In "Be A Team!", one of Nick Army's teamwork exercises for K.O., Rad, and Enid is to pilot an enormous tank through an obstacle course. Unfortunately, the Bogedamen make a mess of things because they went into stations that weren't suited to their skill sets: Enid is tasked with loading ammo, a job better suited to stock-boy Rad, who's used to heavy lifting; Rad is tasked with "technical support", a job better suited to the supportive and detail-oriented K.O.; and K.O. is tasked with running the command module, a job better suited to the bossy, take-charge Enid.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016): In "Power Up Puff", the girls watch a cooking competition where one of the contestants is a scientist whose Mad Scientist methods wind up turning his dish (pigs in a blanket) into a giant monster. He appears again on a redemption episode having learned nothing from his last attempt at cooking and ends up creating another monster out of pimento meatloaf.
  • In an episode of Rugrats, the actor playing Reptar in "Reptar on Ice" mentions that "I can't skate, I hate kids, and lizards give me the creeps".
  • The Simpsons:
    • Due to laziness and lack of motivation, Homer is largely incompetent at his job at the power plant, either being the source of many problems that occur there or making existing ones worse. And he's the safety inspector. It's hard to think of a worse job for someone like him. Many episodes show he is rather skilled at a great deal of other professions, like being a referee, a chess master, or a bodyguard, to name a few.
    • In "Homer The Smithers", Smithers gets fired from Mr. Burns' personal assistant, and he briefly works as the announcer at the Springfield Dragway. However, his stern nature is so at odds with the job's Large Ham expectations that he gets thrown out of the announcer's booth off-camera.
    • In "Realty Bites", Marge is hired by Lionel Hutz to work as a real estate agent at his new realty company. Her natural honesty puts her at odds with Hutz's shady business practises - she puts her customers off by pointing out flaws in the properties or telling them she really likes the house they're currently living in, is wracked with guilt when she sells the Flanders family a house where a multiple homicide took place without telling them its grisly history, and is fired for returning Ned's uncashed cheque after the house is destroyed in a car crash.
  • Spongebob Squarepants: Plankton is absolutely horrible at running a restaurant. His chum-based dishes are all inedible at best and outright harmful at worst (A fake customer mentions he had to get his stomach pumped twice before going to do it a third time from eating so much of it), has lousy customer service skills because of his short temper, and has to resort to trying and always failing to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula from the Krusty Krab to make his restaurant a success. He is a much better scientist, whose skills rival (or even at times surpasses) that of Sandy and would have much better luck at profiting from it if not for his obsession with stealing the formula.
  • Steven Universe: Future: In "Guidance", Amethyst manages to assign jobs to all the gems living on Earth where their former professions allow them to excel at them. Steven however, feels that their jobs are too similar to what they used to do back on Homeworld and switches up their jobs despite Amethyst's protests that this is not the case and that those jobs are what the Gems wanted to do. Unsurprisingly, things quickly turn to chaos when the gems prove to be horrible at the jobs Steven assigns them to, requiring him and Amethyst to fix things before someone gets hurt.
  • Stōked: Fin originally applied to be the resort's new surf instructor, which would have been a perfect fit for her as she's one of the best surfers in the world. Instead, Reef gets the position while Fin is stuck with housekeeping duty, much to her dismay as she considers it both humiliating and beneath her. She eventually reaches her breaking point in one episode where the lack of respect and appreciation drives her to apply for an instructor position at Captain Ron's, although it turns out to be not all it's cracked up to be and throws the Ridgemount Resort into chaos by causing all the hotel rooms to remain too dirty to rent out to guests due to Fin being a far more competent maid than Lo even when the latter has Rosie helping her out. Because of this, the others work to and succeed in getting Fin fired, with Bummer literally begging on his hands and knees for her to come back after Mr. Ridgemount threatens to fire him for allowing such a skilled surfer under their employment to leave for their rival.
  • While the level of it varies Depending on the Writer, many episodes of Thomas & Friends have engines switched or relocated to different jobs, often leading to confusion and delay. This is especially common when lightweight tank engines switch jobs with strong tender engines. For example, Thomas, Percy and Toby on separate occasions have been made to pull the Express, a large passenger train they can barely move and is usually located to Gordon or James. They have no problems shunting or taking goods trains however, jobs Gordon and James loathe and routinely botch from lack of effort or behaviour issues.
  • Time Squad has a number of historical figures that are discovered to be involved in other lines of work that are clearly not suited for them, but dream of succeeding in these alternative jobs regardless. Or worse, the historical figures are so terrible at their "correct" job that the Time Squad has to basically figure out how to reinvent the person's role in history just to have some shred of accuracy.
  • Transformers: Generation 1: Due to the near constant losses brought about by their Forever War, the Autobots and Decepticons are so desperate for functioning troops that they'll place soldiers into positions that they are completely unsuited for:
    • The Autobot Action Master Sprocket is a Blood Knight who never takes prisoners... yet, due to poor resource allocation management, he has been placed in a surveillance position. This often results in a loss of valuable intel, since he simply can't observe Decepticon activity without attacking. To his credit, he always reports back on what was happening up until that point.
    • Nautilator was assigned to be a member of the Seacons, the Decepticons' premier underwater assault team. While he loves the ocean, he is a poor swimmer, and can't navigate to save his life. His teammates are deeply irritated at having to constantly rescue him from the depths.
    • Before becoming a Targetmaster, the Nebulan Holepunch was an office manager. He somehow gained the position despite not having received any managerial training, and possessing poor people skills coupled with an overly-bossy manner. He brings all this and less to the Autobot cause, often distracting his teammates with self-important requests.
    • Starscream himself. When it comes to military matters, he's terrible. When it comes to politics, he's actually pretty good, since his weasel-minded backstabbing nature means he can excel without worry of being shot in the back.
    • The Autobot Action Master Rollout is loud, brash, and prefers weapons that make the biggest explosions. The only reason he's gotten anywhere as a covert operative is because of his long-suffering partner Glitch constantly telling him what to do and fixing his near-fatal blunders.
    • The Throttlebot Wide Load is an excessively vain Neat Freak. Unfortunately for him, his alt mode (a dump truck) results in him working materials transport, a job that often leaves him covered in dirt (which he complains about non-stop).
    • There's the Triggerbot Backstreet, a lookout with Super-Senses. Great right? Not when said lookout is a skittish, anxiety-riddled mess who jumps to conclusions. It's heavily implied that Backstreet would be better in the role of a field trooper where he wouldn't have the opportunity to overthink anything, as all of his stats are actually quite decent and he's unusually resilient.
    • Sparkstalker is a brilliant hacker and crypto-analyst who could probably undermine half of the Autobot intelligence network if he were allowed to apply those talents. Instead, he was modified into a Firecon and assigned to babysit Flamefeather and Cindersaur, respectively a hate-fueled berserker and a dimwitted pyromaniac. Unfortunately for Sparkstalker, the aforementioned idiots are stronger than he is; one version of him was accidentally incinerated by Cindersaur after the latter proved too stupid to understand what "friendly fire" was and why it was a bad thing.
    • The Autobot triple-changer Broadside is in the wrong line of life: he's terribly acrophobic and gets nauseatingly seasick. Unluckily for him, his alternate modes are a wildly out-of-scale bomber jet or a literal aircraft carrier, so he's sort of obligated to suffer any time he transforms to do his job as an air & sea assault operative. Despite being ginormous and having great stats, Broadside's life kind of sucks, and even the other Autobots feel he's a bit of a loser.
    • Some of the later Recordicons fall into this. Beastbox is an interrogator who thanks to poor impulse control and stupidity just beats captives to death. Slugfest's job is messenger, but he's so stupid and paranoid he thinks the message is about him, and goes into a berserk rage where he either loses the message or forgets what it was.
  • Wayside: Principal Kidswatter's skills at running a school are almost nonexistent, he's dumber than a sack of hammers, and is incapable of performing the simplest of tasks like walking through doorways, but is shown at times to be a lot more proficient in other careers like bullfighting. Louis even admits that Kidswatter doesn't do much around the school (Todd when acting as Principal For A Day ends up doing more work in one day than Kidswatter does in a year) and is only kept around because he's the only one who knows how to keep the school from falling over.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Cupcake Job," the bears go to work at an automated cupcake stand, but the manager places them in exactly the wrong tasks: Grizz (bombastic and friendly) has to work the cupcake ATM, Panda (tech-savvy) is on the production line, and Ice Bear (quick reflexes and good in a crisis) is the dancing mascot. Since none of them are assigned to their strong suits, the job becomes a complete disaster (Except for Ice Bear, who becomes an impromptu street performer).