Tailored to Fit
How can you tell if a job is a good fit for you? Inevitably, some choices we make about taking certain jobs are guided more by necessity than preference; sometimes we just need to bring a period of unemployment to an end. Sometimes this works out well for us, and we discover that a job or company ‘grows on us’ over time. But sometimes it’s the opposite. There are things that just don’t feel right, and we start to look elsewhere again. This can lead to a career history marked by short hops at a string of jobs, which can be difficult to address and defend in an interview.
I almost always ask candidates in interviews what they want in their next role and company, what’s really important to them, and I’m often surprised and disappointed at how few people have given thought to this. When someone has, I’m impressed. I’m also happy for that person, because in the end, they stand a better chance of experiencing real job satisfaction. It’s pretty hard to find what you’re really looking for, if you don’t know what that is.
Assuming that the job itself is one you enjoy, one that’s a good match for your skills and experience, there are three things that you should think about when narrowing your focus on employers that are just right for you.
Product or Service
We all have different interests in life. Something that provokes breathless excitement in one person may be mind-numbingly boring to another. It’s not realistic to imagine that you’ll only ever work for companies that offer a product or service that matches up with something you’re really passionate about. But imagine how much happier you’d be going to work everyday if you like and are interested in what your company does. When work taps into our personal interests in some way, it also unlocks something called ‘discretionary effort’, which just means we’re more likely to go above and beyond if we enjoy our work, because it doesn’t feel as much like work. It also means you’re more likely to be a strong performer in that job, having opportunities to advance and earn more. If you’re building on a small list of targets or weeding out prospects from a long list of possibilities, it can be helpful to think about what the companies do, and how happy, excited, and proud you’d feel to be part of that. If the answer is yes, it may indicate that the job is a good fit for you.
Size and Structure
It’s very different working in a large national or multinational corporation, than for a small family-owned company. Each comes with attributes that may make for a better or worse fit for you. The size of a company, and its ownership structure, affects almost everything: whether you work closely with the owners or managers and the rest of the staff, the amount of established policy and structure, opportunities for promotion and advancement, where and how decisions are made. Put some thought to what kind of experience would suit you best as an employee, and it will help you focus your attention towards the right size and structure of a company where the job is a good fit for you.
Team and Culture
Culture is a difficult thing to gauge from the outside; you likely won’t know for sure before you start working with a company whether the culture is one where most people work independently, or as a closely-knit team on every project; whether the office is more laid back with lots of office banter, or more like the quiet of a library. You may have preferences of your own, and it’s helpful to understand what they are, so you can look for them when you’re interviewing. Deciding whether the job is a good fit for you, at the same time the employer is evaluating whether you’re the right next hire for them.
Reflecting on these three areas can help point you towards companies where you’ll feel more at home, where you’ll enjoy the work more, and where you’re more likely to outperform. And they’ll also arm you with better answers when someone like me asks what’s important to you, and what you’re looking for in your next company.