For whatever reason, the past couple weeks I have been talking to a number of folks about jobs that just weren’t a fit for them. There are mixed stories. Horror at being fired or waiting too long to leave and triumph at leaving early enough to avoid pain and suffering.
How do you know if you are in the right job? What do you do when you think you are not a good fit for the position? Here are a couple of ideas I have had about how to best handle this uncomfortable situation.
- Reflect on it. There are some pretty clear signs when there is a match issue. Do you dread going into work or a particular meeting? Do you feel drained at the end of the day? Do you avoid particular tasks or people because you aren’t sure what to do? If you start having these horrible feelings about your work, it is important to take time for self-reflection. Look at the work that you are doing and ask yourself some simple questions: * Do I like what I do? * Am I skilled at it or do I feel that I can learn it? * Do I have the necessary support and training to improve? If any of the answers to these questions are no, you may want to think about moving on. It is hard to improve a situation in which you do not like the work, do not think you can ever get good at it, and/or don’t have the training and support you need to succeed. It is important to evaluate if you can change things enough to make it fit for you.
- Work on it. Even if you answered yes to all of the questions, but are still miserable, you must figure out how to do something different. You have the pieces, but somehow, the puzzle is not coming together. Develop a plan to maximize your strengths, to make your work more efficient and effective, and to capitalize on the training and support you have available. Set goals and specific steps to accomplish them. Make sure that the goals are measurable (e.g., increase sales by __%) and that the steps are clear and bite-sized. If you set goals that you cannot measure, you will not be able to evaluate your progress. If your steps are too big, you will have a hard time meeting them. Think about a ladder leading to the top of a 20-story building. You need to have rungs every foot or so. If you only have the top rung, you will never reach the roof. Also, it is important to engage people for training and support. Have people (respected colleagues, supervisors) provide you with both tools for your work as well as accountability for progress on your goals. Figure out how much support you need and ask for it.
- Take the next steps. If you are able to make progress at work and put the puzzle pieces together, great! If you are not making progress, or realize that you don’t really want to keep this job (because you don’t like it, aren’t good at it, or don’t have the support you need), it is critical that you take the first step toward something new. So many people I know have stayed at a job or in a position that doesn’t suit them for far too long. It seems that moving on is perceived as equivalent to failure. That is just not true! Here is an amazing quote from Albert Einstein that sums up my beliefs about this: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” You are not meant to do every single job. Do something that better matches your strengths and passion. Don’t bang your head against the wall trying to overcome “weaknesses.”
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