And yet I do sometimes hear objections, like these:
YES BUT IT SOUNDS TOO EASY
The objection I hear most often is: “What you’re talking about is for dreamers.” True, on the surface, the questions seem simple. But the process is hard, very hard. The issue of wrong fit in corporations and the misery people face every day in their jobs can’t be solved just by going through a few questions. Digging down takes time and courage, especially when you’ve spent most of your life not knowing who you are or what you want. It’s worth it, says this former politician: “Humans tend not to have self-awareness built into their psyches. We are much less self-aware than we think we are…. By knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, you emerge in the end much stronger, with more confidence and a better understanding of what you like and what you want to do.”
YES … BUT I JUST NEED TO WIN THE INTERVIEW TO GET THE JOB
An interview is never about winning the job or winning over the interviewer. It’s a conversation to see whether you can see yourself fitting into a particular work environment and whether the hiring committee understands what they will get if they hire you. If they don’t need or want you, that’s great. You both can walk away. Imagine what would have happened if they’d hired you!
YES … BUT WHAT IF I’M OFFERED A JOB THAT USES PART OF WHAT I REALLY ENJOY DOING?
Often things get off track during the job interview when you get your chance to say, “Here are the three things I’m really good at” and the inter- viewer replies to the effect of “Well, I’m not inter- ested in one, or two, or three, but this little part over here, I can use a bit of that.” And because you want the job, you give in. Don’t let this happen. Don’t let anyone sell you into a job—and don’t sell yourself into a job. You should be able to clearly articulate what an employer should pay you for. And you should be looking for someone who says, “I need all of it, not just 20 percent!” If this is not the case, walk away.
YES … BUT I’M ON THEIR SUCCESSION PLAN!
You’re smart. Maybe you were at the top of your class in school. Or you’ve been recruited to a position because the company is in awe of where you worked before or what they’ve heard you accomplished. And now you’re trapped because you realize it is a wrong fit, but the company is trying to woo you with all sorts of promises if you stay. But do you even want to move up? Listen to what my friend the derivatives player told me: “They thought that moving up in the hierarchy in the company was going to be something that made me happy. But when I took a good look at what mattered to me, hierarchy was irrelevant. It was low down on the list of things I consider to be rewarding.” If you do want to move up, ask yourself, Are you really on the succession plan? Most likely not. Instead, you’ll probably spend only a small part of your time doing what you are really good at doing, and your dissatisfaction and frustration will grow. You won’t feel valued because you are not excelling where your skills are strong. Your performance will suffer, you will become disengaged. It is at this point, typically, that your boss will say, “Let’s get rid of her,” not “Let’s find the right fit for her.”
YES … BUT THE MONEY IS GOOD
Measuring success and personal value goes far beyond monetary aspects. I’ve never been happier with the work I do now, despite the fact that I make significantly less money than in my previous careers. And I’m not alone; I hear this from people all the time. “I had one of the top twenty jobs in the country,” said my friend in derivatives. “I made a seven- figure income. I liked the people I was working with, and the job came with lots of prestige. But I still walked away from it. Every day I could feel the stress in my stomach, sitting in my office not doing what I thought I should be doing. I was a Tasmanian devil, and the institution where I worked just didn’t want that much disturbance.” Research is clear about one thing: we all get better at the things we enjoy doing, our productivity jumps by leaps and bounds, our expertise increases, and, above all, we’re happier.
The same principle applies to our work life.
YES … BUT I CAN CHANGE—I CAN LEARN TO DO THAT
Your life should be focused on working every day on your strengths. You should find a job or career that requires as little as possible from that side of your balance sheet where you’ve listed “things I suck at.” When you lack strengths in one area, why would you spend your time trying to improve your weakness when you could improve what you’re really good at doing? Instead of promising to change, get others to see you through the right lens and say, “Here’s why you should be interested in me. Here’s what you should not try to change.” Steve, the guy who walked into a food fight in his new job, put it this way: “People tend to look at their weaknesses, want to take a course, and get more information on things they’re not so good at. In the limited time you have in your working career, I learned you really need to focus on things you are really good at doing.”
YES … BUT IN MY POSITION I CAN’T AFFORD TO BE THAT FUSSY
New graduates often tell me that they just need to get their foot in the door somewhere. I say back to them, “Shouldn’t it be the right door?” Of course you can afford to be fussy. We all deserve to be fussy when it comes to our working lives. Falling into a career just because you got hired somewhere shouldn’t be the basis for how you spend the rest of your working life.
YES … BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF WORK
I am not denying that it is a lot of work. And it’s difficult. It can take time to put together an infomercial, define your target-rich environment, figure out your conflict-resolution style, and assess just how much capacity you need to use in order to be happy at your job. It’s also tough to sit down with a boss and say you don’t have the personality bandwidth to do sales, even though the job represents a promotion. It’s even more difficult to turn down a job offer when you know they may need your skills, but they do not want you or the way you work.
But for those who’ve gone through the process, it’s worth it. If it leads to a no, or a change of careers, you’ve been spared from a job where you’ll eventually be miserable. And if it leads to a yes, you’ll have what most people only dream about—a job you love every hour of the day, doing exactly what you like to do. Here’s what one of my clients said: “I came out with a higher level of self awareness. This is who I am and this is what I’m good at. It was an empowering experience. I know who I am, and what I’m really, really good at doing. And because I’ve now accepted this, my business is a success, and every day I spend at work is as close to my perfect day as I ever imagined it could be.”