The suspicion that you might be off track career-wise can be difficult to ignore. As a career coach, I frequently speak to individuals about their struggles in the workplace. The causes of their unhappiness can be any number of things: conflicting personalities, poor communication, incompatible corporate culture, and so on. In many cases, however, the issue comes down to poor fit—that is, their strengths and abilities simply don’t match up with the job.
I wish every job selection decision was the right one, but the job recruitment and hiring process remains imperfect. And a job that was once a good fit may become less so over time. Nothing is worse than the dawning realization that the role you had great hopes for isn’t a good match for you. This is an important assessment. Ultimately, if our work isn’t aligned with who we are as contributors, our energy levels begin to drop significantly. The longer we hang on, the more the issues are likely to intensify. We may experience pervasive self-doubt and accompanying anxiety. Acting swiftly to make changes is critical, before the stress and frustration become overwhelming.
There are a number of indicators that can tip you off to a poor job-person fit. Ask yourself the following questions. A “yes” to even one may be a sign that you should take immediate action—from speaking with your manager, mentor, or coach, to offering yourself the permission to move on to greener pastures and an opportunity that’s better suited to you.
- Am I feeling lost? If you’ve ever experienced the classic nightmare where you arrive at class only to find that it’s exam day and you haven’t read a single page of the textbook, you know how it feels to be lost. This shouldn’t be your experience at work. If every task or project leaves you feeling unprepared, take note: Sometimes that “next step” in your career has been the wrong step.
- Are my strengths being tapped? Ultimately your work should align with your strengths. If this is not the case, it’s time to start exploring other options. If you feel your weaknesses have taken center stage, it’s unlikely you’ll stay energized for the long haul. Have a conversation with your manager now. Don’t wait for things to magically get better. They won’t.
- Do I feel disconnected? Does it seem like everyone else is on one page and you’re on another? If it feels as if you’re not in synch with the vision of the organization, the person-job match may be off. If you see yourself as an island (and everyone is speaking an entirely different “language”), it may be time to explore moving on.
- Am I in avoidance mode? Be honest with yourself. Is being at work absolutely excruciating? If you had your druthers, would you never set foot in the office again? Are you dealing with looming deadlines with a blank screen continually staring back at you? Have you simply stopped caring? These are telling signs.
- Am I in blame mode? You certainly can own the part of the problem that you’ve controlled (you’ve ignored your “inner voice,” for example). However, I guarantee there were plenty of other factors in play. The bottom line is this: You’re not happy and it’s time to act. Blaming yourself or others doesn’t resolve things—what you need is a plan to move forward.