"Work"ing Out: Is Your Job a "Fit" or a "Fight"
By Matt W. Sandford, LMHC
When we were young people probably asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. And I think for most of us, when we think back on how we answered we chuckle about it. Childrens’ answers to this question can be fanciful, and have nothing to do with the concept of a good “fit”. But what constitutes a good fit? And how can we expect to find satisfaction in life if our job is more a fight than a good fit? What can we do?
I believe that in some ways we are conditioned in our culture to conceive of finding a “good job” in specific ways, such as: it is something I am good at, it is something I like doing, it is something that pays well, and it is something that is respected by others. Our parents and families were likely highly invested in us finding a “good job” and so the expectations were there hovering over us. And with the cultural and family expectations doing their job, many of us pursued what we hoped would be a “fitting” career. We worked hard through studies or apprenticeship and someone hired us and off we went. But after some years, maybe few or maybe twenty, maybe you over time became less and less satisfied and started questioning your career choice. This certainly describes my own journey.
So, for whatever reason you find you aren’t happy in your career and may be feeling like it isn’t really a good fit. But what can you do? You have invested time and money into developing your skill set and you are now pigeon-holed, so it seems. Or maybe you’re making good money and you have a family to support and/or debts to meet, and so you’re stuck in your current job, so it seems. Or maybe you just can’t stomach the process of starting over, or you are conflicted about giving up the position you’ve gained? There’s many perspectives and situations that can create this “un-fitness”.
Let’s explore some of the ways this can manifest itself and then look at a strategy for dealing with it.
· Has something in your job responsibilities changed? Maybe you got promoted or moved or decided to take on a new role, or the company changed the job description? Maybe at first you were interested in this change, saw it as an opportunity? But it hasn’t turned out like you expected.
· Sometimes it’s not the work itself, it’s the co-workers or the boss. Maybe you don’t get along, maybe you don’t feel respected, maybe you are micro-managed, or maybe you can’t get the help, support or feedback you need? Maybe you’ve tried to express yourself about the issues and have felt unheard or ignored?
· Sometimes it can be the pace of the work day, or the amount of time in the office (or out of it), or the amount of time required dealing with customers (or lack of it).
· Sometimes it can be that your workplace is contradicting, challenging, or eroding your morals, particularly your integrity, requiring you to fudge facts or look the other way. Experiences of this kind can make you want to abandon the whole industry you are in.
· Sometimes it can be that we conclude we just aren’t very good at the job, and feel that we won’t likely become very good at it. We want to do something that in which we can feel a sense of competence and pride.
· Sometimes you get into your career and find out that doing the job just doesn’t satisfy your heart and leaves you empty. You don’t care about the job and you want to do something you care about. Or you want to make a difference or help people.
What can you do?
1. Step Back
This means that making big decisions in life when you are angry, frustrated, confused, scared, anxious or sad is not going to bring you the best conclusions and well made plans. There is such a thing as optimal stress, and it helps us to focus and concentrate. But, when we are emotionally “worked up”, we are flooded beyond this optimal level and we are cognitively compromised, meaning we aren’t able to reason and analyze and process things as effectively as we normally would. So, we need to do something first. We need to step back. This means we need to shift our focus onto something else, distract ourselves if possible, breathe and move on to step 2.
2. Get to Higher Ground
This means that after stepping back, we need to get a better vantage point from which to view our situation. When we are stuck down in the bog it is hard to determine which way to go. We need to climb to higher ground to be able to see our way out of the wilderness. There are a number of ways to do this. For some it involves getting feedback from objective others, for some it involves reading and for some it means seeking out God and his perspective.
3. Detective Time
Now, from this broader vantage point I can begin to investigate what are the elements that are provoking to me. When did these feelings begin? What issues are influencing these feelings? How have I tried to manage them so far? Why do we bother doing this step, some may ask. It is very relevant, because you won’t be able to find something satisfying if you don’t understand what is going on in your heart in the present that makes it unsatisfying. It’s probably not so simple as, “I just don’t like it.”, or “the folks I work with are jerks.” I have come to learn that human beings are very complex.
When I have gained some perspective, gotten feedback from outside sources, and probed my heart, now I am ready to formulate a plan so that I can experience a better fit and hopefully become more satisfied.
But let me here challenge you. What does satisfaction mean to you? Does it mean to make a lot more money, to gain prestige, or power, or be better than others? If your goals are about your ego, I have to warm you, there is a reason you have been unsatisfied. Your problem is not so much the job fit as it is your goal (although it certainly may be both, my meaning is that one is more dangerous than the other). When a large part of identity is placed in our career, we have doomed ourselves to a life of “chasing the wind”. Even those who find much satisfaction in their career because it feeds their ego will find down the road that it didn’t fill their soul or satisfy them as they hoped it would.
So, when you conduct your evaluation, do not neglect to evaluate your longings and dare to wrestle with the question of what really satisfies. We all get stuck at some time in this life and that means we all need resources and guidance and wisdom along the way.
Hopefully, your struggle with job fit will direct you into a productive heart search that leads to much more growth, meaning and satisfaction in your life!