Five Ways to Measure your Career Fit

If you’re looking for a new suit of clothes, it’s pretty straightforward to determine what fits. Is it your size, a colour you like, the right fabric for the season and so on? Unfortunately, it’s not quite so clear when it comes to your career. As a career coach for over 30 years, I believe that poor career fit is the most common reason people don’t achieve the success they’re capable of in their work … and experience much unhappiness as a result.

Five Factors to Determine your Career Fit

Fit with your Life

At the most basic level you need to consider whether your career fits in the overall context of your life. Does it provide flexible hours if that’s important to you? Is it within reasonable commuting distance? Does it pay enough to support the life you want? These are the obvious questions and the most easily answered.

Fit with your Interests and Personality

Fit on this level is critically important as it drives your motivation and how likely you are to succeed. On one level this is about your interest in the industry or sector in which you are engaged, whether in business, healthcare, not for profit, other. More important, it’s about your interest in the nature of the work itself – whether the tasks and activities that make up your day are enjoyable and fulfilling. Innate personality preferences have a huge bearing on this. They determine for example, whether you prefer analytical or creative tasks, enjoy implementing process and systems or feel most yourself in the role of manager, teacher or a coach. If you find yourself dreading certain tasks in your work, or dreading going to work altogether, chances are you’re in a job that’s a poor fit with your innate personality preferences. Ideally, at least 60-75% of the work you do should be intrinsically rewarding for you or, you run the risk of losing interest or burning out.

Fit with your Skills

While your innate preferences and interests determine whether you want to do the job, fit with your skills determines whether you can do it. Liking the work is not enough, you need to have skills to be effective in it – whether those skills are technical, leadership, selling skills, other. Typically, there’s a learning curve in skill development, steep in the early stages when you can expect to feel less confident and leveling off over time until you feel you’ve learned all that you can and are no longer challenged. Where are you on this continuum? What skills do you need to strengthen to be even more effective? What skills do you need to prepare for the next step?

Fit with your Values

Values are what is important to us. They act like a compass, steering our course and governing our decisions, sometimes even without our conscious awareness. When you are living in alignment with your values, you feel more energy, more authentic and fulfilled. But when the work you do comes in conflict with your values, great disillusionment can result.

For example, you may value personal learning but find yourself in a dead end job with little chance of progression. You value collaboration and teamwork, but your new boss is creating a culture that encourages one-up-manship and internal competitiveness. You are a new father and increasingly uncomfortable with the 24/7 pressures of your job now that family concerns seem more important. How about you? What are your core values? How do your values align with the culture and values of your organization?

Fit with Higher Purpose

This is the ultimate level of career fit when you feel that your work is an extension of who you are, a means of expressing your purpose in the world. At this level work feels as much a “calling” as a career – what you are meant to do and contribute. Artists and creative people frequently express these sentiments but we all have within us the potential to connect to a deeper purpose, whether that’s expressed in our personal lives or in our careers. For some, inspiration comes from leading others, for others, building a successful business, for others making a difference in their communities. What about you? What brings meaning and purpose to your life? Where does your career fit in that?

So there you have it – five factors that determine whether you’ve achieved career fit. Ideally, when these factors align – you are doing work that you love and are good at, that matters to you personally and allows you to live your values. Your work becomes a natural expression of who you are. Best of all it no longer feels like work!

How well does your career fit? Which factors are present? What needs to change to make it an even better fit?

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