In this time of high unemployment and economic unease, job seekers are more than ever desperate to land a paycheck-any paycheck.
While certainly understandable-after all, providing for the rent and food bills is critical-job seekers are frequently so eager to be hired that they often over look indicators that the job won’t be a good fit.
When a position is a poor fit, there are negative repercussions for both the company and the employee.
From an employer’s point of view, an employee who is a poor fit is unlikely (and probably unable) to bring their best work-their natural instincts for problem solving-to the job each day. Morale in the department inevitably goes down, absenteeism goes up, and (generally sooner rather than later) the employee becomes a ROAD (Retired On Active Duty) employee, spending company time plotting an escape, and eventually leaving. Result: more turnover, more wasted time and attention, and the need to begin the hiring process over again.
What about from the employee’s point of view?
Certainly for a few weeks or months, the employee is bringing home a paycheck, but at what cost? Employees who are in a job that is a poor fit suffer high levels of frustration, dissatisfaction, and often depression. As one such person put it, “It’s like moving through sludge to get going each day. I dread Monday morning and having to go to work.”
These feelings generally also bleed over into the individual’s family life. Not only is the job causing high levels of tension, but trying to find a better position while keeping up with job and personal responsibilities can raise stress levels to almost unendurable levels. If the employee is forced out prior to finding a new position, feelings of distress and worthlessness generally intensify. And-it goes without saying-the employer is not likely to provide a glowing reference.
Ways to stay sane and focused on a job search
Employers write a formal job description. Job seekers should do the same. Write out what’s important to you in terms of job responsibilities, specific tasks, culture and management style. Review it before every interview and ask questions that will help you determine whether this company and this position meet your requirements.
Ask how much freedom you will have to accomplish the job goals in a manner that suits you. If there is very little flexibility, fully understand those limits so you know if you will be comfortable with the prescribed approach. Think hard about how you like to operate. If you are most comfortable with a highly structured, regimented environment, this could be your perfect position. If you do your best work when you have more flexibility and autonomy, you should probably wait for a better match.
Ask enough questions to understand the management style and decision making process of your direct manager. If you and your potential manager are too far apart in these areas, and the manager does not have the training or skills to benefit from these differences, problems are certain to develop. We’ve all been in the situation (or known someone who has been in the situation) where we think “if only my boss would move to Timbuktu and leave me alone-this is the perfect job, with perfect customers, and perfect colleagues. But my boss-lovely person, not such a perfect manager.” If you and your potential boss work in styles that are radically different, you need to have an agreed upon plan as to how you will be able to work together in a way that will allow you both to thrive.
Finally, listen and evaluate honestly. For almost every poor fit situation I’ve observed, both the employer and employee can point either to signals in the interview/pre-employment process that raised red flags that were ignored, or to times when they smoothed over the reality to appear more attractive to the other. In every instance, both employer and employee have reported wishing they had been less good at selling themselves (or the position) and better at honestly evaluating the match.
Having a paycheck is important. But having a job where you are eager to go to work and do your best each day is priceless.
Judi Cogen is a Principal with J Grace Consulting and an expert in reducing unwanted organizational turnover. Her Selection Strategist Program helps companies reduce turnover and take the guesswork out of hiring by using proven conative testing and company specific analytics to select the right person for the right position. J Grace Consulting also offers Youth Strategist, a program to help 10 to 17 year old kids understand their conative attributes for more success in life and school. Learn more about Selection Strategist and Youth Strategist at http://JGraceConsulting.net. You can read Judi’s blog at http://JudiCogen.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @JudiCogen.