Your fit with anything -- a person, a neighborhood, a pair of jeans -- is what makes that thing yours. Fit is what makes it worth having. Your fit to a job is no different. Is it the right fit?
The right job fit is as important as the right skill match. Harvard research has shown fit to be even more important to performance than skill in certain industries1. Berkeley researchers identified a bad job fit as one of the primary drivers of employee burnout2. Gallup has found that one of the top reasons people leave a job is to find a better fit, where they have the chance to do what they do best3.
Many people talk about finding their passion. Some lucky ones find it early in life, but for many of us, while we are interested in some things and not interested in others, we don't have a clear passion. So what do we do? How do we find the right fit if we haven't found our passion?
The answer: purpose + strengths.
Here is some advice for job seekers looking for the right fit.
1. Make it personal
A fulfilling career is one where you take work personally. The more personal your work feels, the more energy you'll have and give, and the more likely you'll be an engaged, top-performer. The more meaningful your work is to you, the more congruent it will be with the rest of your life. It can be hard to discover the things you take personally, so ask yourself: What gives you energy? What frustrates you? Whom do you want to prove wrong? Whom do you want to make proud? What makes you cry? What keeps your attention when others tune out? Things that are personal evoke an emotional response -- good or bad.
Consider this example. During a recent coaching conversation, my client, "Kenny," asked himself, "What do I care about in life; what matters most to me?" He started listing things common to most of us, like education and good health. But what was it specifically about education and health that mattered to him?
As we dove into this, Kenny talked about living in a rural area and his special needs daughter's inability to access the education and healthcare she needed to have the best opportunity at life. Kenny began to see that what mattered to him was bigger than education and healthcare; it was providing access to those things that make a happy and healthy life.
Going deeper, Kenny realized he cared about everyone having access to what they need to succeed in life. At the core, making it personal meant focusing on access and equality. What was Kenny's greatest frustration? The healthcare red tape. He could get energized working on that!
2. Make it your strength
What could Kenny do about the excessive rules and formalities in healthcare? Was there a place where he could make a difference? To help him answer this, I gave Kenny the same advice I give you now: start with what you do best. Research shows when we work from a place of strength, we perform better and are more productive, happy and fulfilled4.
When considering what they do best, most people think of functional expertise, which is an important aspect. Yet they fail to identify and communicate their transferable strengths. Things like seeing patterns in data; having an unparalleled drive to be first; the courage to speak what's on your mind; the ability to sense what's happening in a room -- these kinds of strengths can be applied to anything, but there are certain responsibilities that better lend themselves to using specific strengths than others.
Using the CliftonStrengths Assessment can help you identify, understand and apply your transferable strengths. Try this exercise: after reviewing your top talents, choose a team accomplishment you're especially proud of. Now consider what would have been different if you weren't there. Do this a few times and you'll begin to see your transferable strengths in action. Kenny found that he was especially talented at seeing commonality in different objectives, and was good at activating and learning as he worked out a solution.
- Chasing Stars, the Myth of Talent and the Portability of Performance by Boris Groysberg
- Understanding the Burnout Experience: Recent Research and Its Implications for Psychiatry by Christina Maslach and Michael P Leiter