Fit at Work
Losing your job for any reason is potentially confidence-busting. I recently worked with someone who was laid off, helping her to conquer her interview nerves. But, I was shocked to learn that the biggest part of her discomfiture around her job hunt had nothing to do with losing her job. It was because of a job fair she attended a month or so ago for the tech firms in our fair city of Victoria, BC. An HR duo spoke at length about how their firm only hires “young people” and that the tech industry as a whole isn’t the “right fit” for older people, at least in their prestigious experience.
Well, that’s hogswash, if you’ll excuse my Maritimer. Fit has nothing to do with age, which I learned as my company grew from 4 to 70+ in a few short years. Our tech culture worked fabulously for people of all ages, people who vibed on the new, the enthusiasm, the innovation, the emotionally supportive co-workers and the idea-first thinking. But, we also hired some “young people” (and not so young people) who hated the interruptive, feely way we did things and chronically complained about our unproductive, hippy environment. Fair enough. They’re happily installed today in work places that much better suit their expectations and in which they are lauded for their focus, their busyness and their practicality. Where they fit.
Unfortunately (for them and us), at our company, we didn’t know how to support them and we didn’t understand their concerns or their results. “That’s nice that you got x done,” we’d say, “but because of how you did it, five people are cheesed off and another ten are out of the loop. You need to move less quickly and think things through a bit more so that you have time to communicate with others and you upset less people along the way.” We weren’t a good fit for each other and it showed. They were frustrated, thwarted and misunderstood. We (the company) were getting results we didn’t like and feeling annoyed that these individuals needed so much ongoing coaching and intervention in order to do what others seemed to naturally do. Those who did fit.
Fit matters not because of some utopian ideal. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all worked somewhere personally pleasing? <Cue the inspiring overture and sunrise footage>
No! Fit matters because when an individual is hired into a poorly-suited environment, their strengths are squandered, their work is misunderstood and devalued and their energy is redirected towards defending their style and choices and away from bringing great things to fruition for the company they work for. If you have ever worked somewhere that you didn’t fit, you know what I’m talking about. Your whole day is riddled with unexpected pitfalls:
“Why did he react that way?”
“I wish my boss wouldn’t talk to me like that!”
“I can’t believe they’re promoting him. He’s useless. Why can’t they see that?”
“I just got told off for doing something hugely important. What are they thinking?!? What do they want for me?”
No, you’re not crazy but it can feel that way. And, truth be told, “they” are probably not crazy either. You’ve just wandered into an alien environment, one in which your needs are not met, you’re style is misunderstood and your perspective is in the extreme minority. You don’t fit. My advice to misaligned individuals: get out. You are throwing your body at a brick wall and are earning the bruises and lumps to show it. You won’t change your company’s culture or focus and you are wasting your life force trying.
Put in a bit of work and gain self-awareness about your fit: a combination of your passions, strengths and expectations that make up your workstlye and then find an organization that values those things. Take the Birkman Method (my personal favourite for its deep dive into one’s underlying expectations and needs) or another high quality personality assessment. Talk to coworkers, former bosses, friends and family to learn about how you appear to others. They can probably tell you what you seem to do more of than most people they’ve met and what you do less than most. Think about your top 3-5 “won’t put up with”s and your top 3-5 “must do everyday to sleep well”s. Use the personal branding language you develop through this process in your resume, your interviews and as you network. That way, organizations know who they’re hiring, not just the skillsets but the core individual. You. Organizations that you wouldn’t fit in with (who are even remotely self-aware) will probably opt out. Good! And, on the flip side, organizations that are looking for people like you will be so excited to have found you. Don’t just move to a new job, move to a job where you fit. And, avoid HR geniuses who claim age is the same as fit.
-Catherine Olchowy, Boldly Reach Your Goals
Check out my Career Fit Program that will help you figure out your personal brand and fit.