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Mismatch! When You and Your Job Collide

Job Stress   I was reflecting with a friend last weekend about some of the jobs each of us had previously had — jobs for which we were, to put it charitably, not well-suited. It got me thinking back on my first sales job, one I’ve alluded to before with an unnamed office products company.  I took this job not long after leaving the Navy because I wanted to succeed in selling. I lasted six months before moving on to something else.

Why was this job such a bad fit for me, and I for it? What could I have foreseen had I stopped to consider what I was getting into? Here are a few thoughts (with the benefit of hindsight) on how I could have known from the start that this job would turn out to be a mismatch. Maybe some of these points will help you if you’re considering a new job or a job change.

  1. First problem: I did not care one iota about what I was selling. Does this mean you can never sell something you’re not excited about? Well, no, not necessarily…but if you’re making cold calls to talk about something in which you have zero interest, trying to gain the attention of prospects who don’t particularly want to talk about it either, you’re in for some frustrating sledding.
  2. Second problem: the position was 100% cold calls. Many people can thrive in a cold-call-based job. I am not one of them.
  3. Third problem: the company’s philosophy was 100% based on “getting past the secretary.” (Remember, all this was decades ago). In fact it was the secretary who was going to be the prime user of the product! By doing my best to circumvent her or him, I was turning a potential ally into a committed adversary. As I’ve said before, many people who lack the authority to say “yes” definitely have the influence to say “no,” as I found out the hard way with more than one lost sale. And the manipulation required felt like a bad fit for my relational personality.
  4. Fourth problem: the company insisted on flying me out for a week of training — on Christmas Day. That’s right, on Christmas afternoon I was on a plane for Los Angeles, checking into a hotel in Inglewood for a six-day training class. Ho, ho, ho. That should have been a clue that the company lacked a certain…sensitivity. Not a good fit, for me, anyway.
  5. Fifth problem: the company insisted I memorize the product demonstration. I’m a fairly intuitive person and I feel like I communicate pretty well. I like using my empathy to adjust my communication style. But, no — my sales presentation consisted of a memorized product demo (“Note the pistol-grip microphone for comfortable, stress free dictation.”) from which I was not supposed to deviate. Can you say “awkward”? Again, this approach is perfectly fine for many people, but it’s a bad fit for my personality.

There were more clues, but you get the idea. Was it a “bad” company or a “bad” job? Not at all! But it was a bad fit — wrong for me, my temperament, my learning style, my interests and my personality. In hindsight it’s almost like I took the job under false pretenses, and cost the company a lot of wasted training dollars. I should have known better. I suspect that when I left the boss was as relieved as I was.

In today’s economy, I realize, many people are holding on to jobs they may not love or even particularly like. I get that. But if you’re considering a different job (or a first job after college, the military or raising your kids) you may want to think long and hard about your gifts, talents, and internal wiring. If you have a choice, save yourself the grief of a job mismatch. You’ll be vastly happier in the long run, and so will your boss.

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Posted by on May 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Three Clues I Was in the Wrong Job

wrong-career        As I have mentioned before, I had a very brief and VERY unspectacular sales stint years ago working for an unnamed office products company. To this day I wonder why I took that job in the first place, and when I realize how little enthusiasm and energy I brought to my employer I feel a twinge of guilt.  (Sorry, Greg. Sorry, Phil.) On the positive side, I did learn a lot, but I knew almost from the very start that the job was a bad fit for me, and I for it.

I’m not trying to give career advice here (I suspect I’m the wrong guy for that…) but during the time I worked for this company there were at least three persistent clues that kept telling me I was in the wrong job. I may not have heeded the warnings at the time but in hindsight I know that these three alarm bells were sounding loud and clear! The Three Clues were…

Clue #1: I didn’t like telling people what I did for a living. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of it — the company was fine and all that. But I knew that people would start probing about how I liked the job or how well I was doing, and I really didn’t want the conversation to go there. It made me uncomfortable to reveal how unhappy I was and how ill-suited I felt for the position. (By contrast, when I’m enthused about my work — like I am now — it’s hard to get me to shut up about it!)

Clue #2: I found myself wasting inordinate amounts of time. Part of my territory included Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle (cold calling in the Smith Tower with those old fashioned elevators was an experience never to be forgotten). There was a deli in one of the old buildings where I sat many a morning at a table next to the old brick wall, sipping English breakfast tea with honey and half and half, letting valuable time slip by, daydreaming about other things I could be doing for a living. No excuses — I see now that I was simply practicing an unhealthy level of creative avoidance.

Clue #3: I didn’t really care about the profession. In the training they taught us to do product demonstrations and to ask lots of questions, which was a valuable skill, one that I mastered during the role play sessions (don’t you just love those?). But in the real world I quickly realized that, even though I could go through the motions and all, I really didn’t care two cents about what the client was telling me! That’s a bad sign: you’re supposed to be listening for valuable information upon which to build your sales presentation, but instead I would ask the question and then mentally tune out the reply. Not professional, and not very respectful of the client’s time, either.

No doubt there were other warning signs, too, but you get the picture. The more I avoided talking about my work, neglected basic habits of productive time management, and zoned during sales calls, the more obvious the conclusion: this job was not right for me. Fortunately through a referral I was able to change career fields shortly thereafter, embarking on the thrilling adventure of selling radio advertising which kept me occupied for most of the ensuing 28 years.

So how about you? If you feel you’re in the wrong job, some honest self-assessment may be in order. It may be time for a change! But if you can’t make a change, what else can you do to make things better? Several ideas come to mind…but I suppose that’s a question better left for another time.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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