Personal Qualities And Finding A Fit

Almost every job description lists the qualifications required by an employer. Education, experience and demonstrated skills make up the bulk of the posting and in some instances, that’s all that’s provided. However, if these alone are enough for an employer to choose the candidates who will succeed, there’d be no need for personal interviews.

So once education, past and present experience and required skills are confirmed, employers turn to their interviewers to size up the people before them as good fits personally. For you the applicant, this part of the application process can be most frustrating. Many people lament lost opportunities even though they met all the stated requirements for employment.

It’s critically important to be self-aware of how you come across to others; to know yourself. You may think you’re coming across as self-confident and assertive when in reality, an interviewer sizes you up as aggressive, arrogant, self-important or conceited. You might promote yourself as a team player, but the interviewer might have serious doubts about how your going to fit in with the existing employees based on how you’re coming across in the interview. This is especially true when you consider that interviews are typically where applicants are on their best behaviour.

Now as an applicant, you might not think this assessment of your personality and individual qualities is entirely fair. After all, you’re under pressure and may be one of those people who performs great on the job itself but comes across poorly in an interview. Who is to say that the person interviewing you and making a hiring decision is good at assessing personalities and ‘fit’ in the first place? Further, if the truth is that interviewers have made up their minds about an applicant in the first 3 minutes or less after first meeting them, how much information are they really working on to make these career-changing assessments?

As an applicant, I recommend you concentrate on the things you can control and not those you can’t. What you say and how you say it, how you dress, stand or sit, your eye contact, smile, advanced research, interpersonal skills, attitude, knowledge etc. – all these are within your control. So too are your tone and volume of speech, your vocabulary, warmth or lack thereof, tact and use of humour, insights, your handshake – again, all within your control.

I get that with so many things to think about, you might wonder how anyone could be successful! Thinking on all these things might just distract you from performing at your best and ironically result in you being passed over for jobs you’d otherwise be perfect for. This is the mindset of those who’d rather take the easy way and just wing an interview. They reason, “I can’t know what the other person is thinking can I? So I’ll just not bother or worry about all that stuff and just do the best I can.”

For some this is a cop-out; not wanting to really invest themselves in the time it takes to prepare for an important interview. They may not get the job anyway, so it could be a big waste of time; time they’d rather spend doing things they enjoy, and interview practice is at the bottom of the list. They figure that only one person gets the job and so there will be a lot of disappointed people; many who did do their homework and practice ahead of time – and they failed too. So why bother?

Why bother indeed? The answer is because preparing gives you a better chance of succeeding. The odds go up considerably for those who take the time to prepare. Preparation will help you figure out what kind of person does well in one job vs. another kind of person. Sit outside the place of employment just watching people come and go and you can learn a great deal about how people dress and interact with fellow employees. Do they seem happy, stressed out, robotic or engaged? Have a meeting with those doing the job you’d like to land and you can ask about the atmosphere, what it takes to succeed, desired personal qualities and this is all part of the company culture that is promoted as desirable behaviour.

Now, if what you learn tells you that in truth you’re not a good fit with an organization, think seriously about continuing to compete for a job there. You may fool some people and indeed get hired, but what if one of the people you fool is yourself? How long will you be happy and do you really want to be back job searching in 3 month’s when you and/or the employer decide the fit just isn’t there?

Want some solid advice? Get to know yourself. No, I’m not being flippant. Identify your personal qualities and ask friends, family and co-workers how you come across. Ask for honesty not flattery; the good and the not-so-charming. Be thankful for all the feedback you have and then armed with all you learn, start the hunt for the job and company where someone with your personal qualities PLUS experience, education and skills will be the best fit.

Way too many people ignore personal fit when looking at potential jobs and employers; yet its personal fit that every employer takes into consideration at every job interview. Unless they want a round peg in a square hole to shake things up, pay attention to finding the proper fit.

Shy And Introverted? Not A People Person?

I meet with and listen to many unemployed people daily. Eventually they get around to sharing the jobs they are looking for, or the career which will require going back to school. It is noteworthy that many of those people who say they would be interested in working as a Librarian present as quiet, introverted or shy. Those who don’t enjoy being around people often say working with animals is their first choice.

These statements suggest to me that some broad generalizations are being made about the personalities and skills they associate with these two professions. It’s as if they are saying Librarians are introverted, shy and go about their business with little social interaction. Likewise the Veterinarian or Veterinarian Assistant prefers to deal with animals than people.

Now both these two professions actually required a significant amount of interaction with the public; readers or animal owners. Today, I’m looking at why the shy and introverted gravitate to these two professions, I’m not talking of the professions themselves. I hope if you comment at the end, your comments are more about choices rather than defending the two careers.

I think the answer to the question regarding why shy and introverted people often name these two careers is similar to what most of us experienced when we were young children. When at play with others, we may have been a Doctor, a mommy or a daddy. Sometimes we’d pretend to be a Fireman or a Teacher. The reason we played these roles had more to do with our limited exposure to other professions in our short lives than career aspirations we had. We couldn’t play at being an Engineer because we hadn’t met any, or if we had, we wouldn’t have observed what they did. Mommy and daddy, Doctors etc. we were exposed to, and we could ‘play’ at being these people with some accuracy.

As we grew, we came into contact with people who held jobs that were new to us, and we’d say, “You’re a Crossing Guard?”, and we’d observe what they did.  With every interaction, an observation or a series of questions, we learned. The more people we met or meet, the more we learned or learn and by association, the more possibilities we considered or consider for ourselves.

In 2015 we’ve got more jobs and careers to choose from than any other time in history. There are new job titles springing up all the time. It stands to reason that with all these occupations from which to choose, some are going to be excellent fits for some personality types and others not suited as well. To categorize any one job as exclusively reserved for the introvert or the extrovert, the outgoing or the shy would be a mistake. However, there are occupations and specific companies that attract people with similar personality traits and interests. Creative and innovative musicians may be drawn to jazz music or to employers like Google. Driving a long haul rig might be a job we find people doing who enjoy both the open road and solitude.

Those who are shy and/or introverted, may have a limited knowledge of possible careers or jobs other than Librarians and ‘jobs working with animals’, where their own traits would be a good fit. Perhaps their under-developed interpersonal skills or lack of self-confidence makes conducting research into other occupations highly stressful; because it would involve interacting with people to get that very information. So not knowing how to learn of other jobs that might be good fits, and not being willing or able to approach others for help to figure things out, they revert to what they know – the two careers they learned about when they were kids that seem like good fits.

Of course both jobs; Librarian and Veterinarian are about so much more than filing books and caring for animals. There is a lot of people contact; volunteering your assistance to find materials, explaining illnesses and treatment options. Both require some pretty intense schooling and education too, which is where many fail to move forward.

Being shy and/or introverted isn’t a bad thing by the way, although like the word, ‘stress’, the three tend to be thought of as undesirable and negative. Shy, introverted people hold down meaningful important jobs all over the world and those jobs exist beyond animal care and the libraries.

If you are one of the many, many people who see yourself as shy or introverted, I imagine it would be helpful to know what your options are. You could search online using, ‘jobs for shy introverted people’. You could also check out College websites and read about careers, talk with the people you do trust to go with you to an Employment office for help. It’s entirely okay to say to a Career Counsellor, “I’m shy, coming here is really hard for me, and I’d like to speak to someone who could help me look at career options.”

Shy folks or those who don’t have great people skills have many awesome qualities and strengths; there are good jobs out there which would be ideal fits for someone just like you! Oh and by the way, not knowing what you should ‘be’ or do is a common dilemma; a lot of outgoing confident people are trying to figure out their careers too.

Risk a little discomfort and you could learn of a job that really appeals.

Personification Exercise: Try It On

Get yourself a pad and a paper for this exercise. Got it? Great. You can do this yourself and then if you are in a position that works with others, you can of course see how it works for your clients. While the exercise itself might take some thought and the benefits not immediately obvious, you should come to see that by completing it, you have a method to quickly articulate some of your best qualities when you need to most.

Make three headings on your sheet: Personality Traits, Strengths and Values. Under each heading write down the personal traits you have, your key strengths and some of your work or life values. If you are doing this as a work-related exercise, use work values; if it’s more of an all-encompassing life exercise, use some of your broader life values.

Okay, so now that you have some of these things on paper – and this requires some imagination on your part – see if you can come up with an inanimate object which encompasses some or most of what you’ve got on the paper. Of course the more items on the sheet of paper, the more difficult it might be to find something that hits every one.

In my own case, I ended up thinking of a lighthouse. A lighthouse to me shows others passages which move them from their current position to their destination. While the safest route is pointed out, so too are the impending dangers, but the lighthouse itself doesn’t have the power to make the ones it is guiding alter their path. It’s up to the people.

And so for me the lighthouse as symbol works for me in many regards. Being a beacon of hope for others; pointing out opportunities and potential hazards is something that I value tremendously in my job, but like the lighthouse, I can’t make those decisions for others, and nor would I want to. Oh sure from time to time my colleagues and I might say to each other, “If I could only get them to do what I want them to, things would be better.” But it’s not my life is it?

Okay so what’s the value in this as an exercise? Fair question. But first let me provide one other outcome. Suppose you ended up with a list and a fire station came to mind or even a bird’s nest. The fire station might work for you if you are in a job where you deal with people in crisis primarily, save lives through your work, while the bird’s nest comes to mind if you provide comforting shelter for others, a place of refuge and rest.

So, to answer the question posed. The value in the exercise comes when you are asked, and potentially the job interview is a good example of a time and place, to come up with your strengths, your values, or to share what motivates you, how you see yourself etc. Sometimes the best of us will either draw a blank, or share things which later we regret not because they were poor responses, but because they didn’t represent us at our best.

So if presented with any of the above types of questions, instead of remembering several key strengths, my work values and relevant personality traits; a list that could be 20 or more items long, all I really need to think of is the lighthouse. The image of the lighthouse then makes it easier for me to recall all the items I want to speak about, because of what I do that is like the lighthouse; the guiding, the navigating, standing firm in the face of much adversity, giving hope to others. I can also speak of others who in their darkest times seek me out for counsel and when times are good, I’m less needed.

By using an association with an object, some people may find they can better recall their best assets and qualities. So even in a situation where you meet someone for the first time, you might find out what it is they do for a living and then follow it up by asking them what they find most rewarding or challenging in their job. If that same question was then posed to you, you could come back to this exercise in your head and recall your central item and by association, speak confidently about your challenges and how your personal characteristics allow you to thrive in the position.

Did you notice the examples I gave; the lighthouse, birds nest and fire station all have a common thread running between them? There’s an element of refuge in all of them; either providing that themselves or ensuring others are sheltered safely. But it could be you choose something different like a traffic sign, a cross walk, a river or campfire. All of these images could mean different things for you than the person beside you. So you could choose the same thing but see if differently.

Look around you today. How are you like the stapler on your desk? What do you have in common with the rug on the floor that provides warmth, is often taken for granted but must be durable and resilient? Oops, may have just given a few things away there to get you started!

Like I said, try it out and see if it helps you or your clients to better recall, values, strengths, traits etc.