I’ve been interviewed on several “how to find your dream career” podcasts lately and thought I’d share the advice I keep giving on these shows.
Yes, of course, it’s good to find a career that aligns with your interests, but that won’t ensure satisfaction. A statistics professor once told me how miserable he was in his career. He loved statistics but disliked being a professor. He was an extreme introvert who was dreadfully uncomfortable lecturing and interacting with students. He had felt he should become a professor to be a respectable professional.
Job fit is critical to happiness and success at work. What that means is that the job needs to match your work style and personality. Even if you love a field of interest, if you don’t work in the right environment, you won’t be comfortable.
For the professor, the job fit mismatch was too much interaction with people for his introverted personality. After being a professor for 15 miserable years, he moved into a job of analyzing surveys for companies. He worked on his computer from home and rarely had client meetings and he was much happier.
A more social person may have a love of biology but would get lonely in a research job. A better fit might be a biology teacher, patent litigator, doctor, or salesperson for a biotech company.
There are many aspects of job fit. Some of these include:
- A structured vs. chaotic environment
- Team-oriented vs. competitive coworkers
- Respectful vs. direct interactions
- Working alone vs. in a team.
The organizational culture contributes significantly to the environment. For example, a New York law firm would likely have a much more competitive environment than a district attorney’s office. A small start-up company is likely more chaotic than a large, established company.
The type of job is another factor. Sales jobs, for example, have a large range of environments. A salesperson who works at a call center spends the day on the phone, whereas a pharmaceutical rep may drive from hospital to hospital. A retail sales clerk typically makes multiple sales per day whereas a medical device salesperson works for months on selling to one customer.
There are many instruments out there to help you find the type of environment that fits with your work style and personality. Some of my favorites include The Birkman Method and the Strong Interest Inventory.
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