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Am I a Fit?

Tuesday, Feb. 20th 2018

Most of us ask ourselves “Am I a fit?” at one point or another in our careers. Maybe it is when we are interviewing for a new job and deciding if we want to join a company. Or maybe it’s a few months in, where we are learning more about our company and start to question our decision to join. Or maybe it’s years later, and things have changed from when we started.

In the course of my own career, and in my coaching and consulting work, I’ve found that it is very common to question ourselves on our fit to our organizations. And I would argue that we should question ourselves, because this question matters. But sometimes we don’t think through this carefully enough, which can lead us into making quick decisions that don’t lead us to be any happier or satisfied at our work.

I’ve found that it’s helpful to take some quiet time, and maybe a journal (or journal app) to think through a few questions related to our fit to our current organizations. Here they are:

In what ways am I a good fit for my organization?

Sometimes in our frustrations we may forget to consider this question. But it may be that in several ways we really are a good fit with our organizations. Maybe we really align to our organization’s purpose, or we can get amazing things done within the culture, or have great relationships at work.

By clearly identifying ways that you are a fit to your organization, you can look at areas where you may not be a fit a bit more objectively.

What makes me think that I may not be a fit for the organization?

As a general rule, whether we like it or not, organizations tend to hire people similar to people that already work there. Maybe you are different in terms of demographics, background, or thinking from many people in the organization. If that is the case, you need to decide if you think that the people you work with can accept the differences you bring; and, just as importantly, you can accept the fact that your co-workers are different from you and may not see things the way you see them.

In evaluating my fit to an organization, I tend to look at things like how much I feel connected to the purpose or values of the organization, how decisions are made, who gets hired, recognized, and promoted, which things get funded and which things don’t, who is involved in making the most important things happen, how employees get along with each other, and how feedback is provided (or not!).  If many of these things don’t work for me, I may not be a fit.

Can I do anything to make me feel like I am a better fit with my organization?

Earlier in my career, I realized that I was not a fit for my boss and the department I was working for, but was a fit for the broader organization. I made a job change to another role, and found that I was a great fit. But it took some work on my part to realize that the fit issue was not with the entire company, just with my circumstances in my department.

It may also be that we think we are not a fit because it looks like we need to change something. That is hard, because most of us don’t like change unless we see strong personal benefits to us. Sometimes when change looms ahead of us we say to ourselves that we are no longer a fit—because we don’t want to change. Sometimes that caution may be the right thing (for example, changing our values or morals) but many other times we just don’t want to change on smaller things. Change is a part of life, and if we are willing to change, we may find that we are a better fit with our company.

In fact, there may be an opportunity for you to be a champion for needed change in the culture of your organization, to help you or others who feel like you feel more valued and a better fit. That can be a powerful motivator and serve as a compelling purpose. But not everyone has the energy, passion, or patience for that. You will need to decide if you do and if it is worth it to you to try.

It may be that there is nothing you feel that you can do to be a better fit. That leads to the next question.

Can I tolerate not being a “perfect fit?”

If you are not a perfect fit for your company, you need to decide if you can still be effective and find meaning and satisfaction in your work. Maybe you look different and have a different background than many of our co-workers. Can you still contribute, add value, and find meaning, despite being different? Can you figure out how to be a fit in some ways, and not in others, and still have a productive career that is meaningful to you? 

If a  “perfect fit” is critical to you, and you don’t have it now, then it may be time to look for another opportunity. But be warned: finding an entirely “perfect fit” can be an elusive search, which may never end.

Will things really be better if I leave the organization?

If you are leaning towards the idea that you need to leave your organization to find a better fit, you need to decide if things really will be better. They might be. Or might not. The worn-out saying about the “grass is not always greener on the other side” is unfortunately true too many times. In my work, I’ve found that it is helpful to be really clear about what kinds of things you will look for in an organization before you decide on your next job. Do more homework before you join the next organization, and be cautious about taking on a new job primarily for more pay or a higher title (many, many people do this and make the assumption that things will be better only to find that they are not a fit).  Talking to current employees and checking out company review sites like Glassdoor.com can help.

I’ve found that there is a mental calculation that we make all of the time. It works like this: is my current role, in my current organization, and my current fit greater than, less than, or equal to assuming the risk of joining of a new organization, the hassle of starting over, and the potential for things for being worse?  At one point in my career I wrestled with that equation for almost ten years, finally deciding that it was time to leave an organization when the equation tipped. It was a hard, but ultimately a good, decision.

These decisions can be hard.  But really, really, thinking through these questions about your fit can make a big difference—to your career, and to your life.

When Todd Averett is not leading the Total Rewards Team at a religious organization, he is the President of Leading People Partners, LLC, a consulting, executive coaching, and training firm that specializes in partnering with leaders and HR professionals to more effectively lead the people side of business. Check out our podcast, “Leading the People Side of Business“, on iTunes. 


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Leading People Partners

Leading People Partners, LLC
Email: todd@leadingpeoplepartners.com