By George Dutch
It’s Monday morning again! “How do you feel about going into work? Perhaps you’re having a hard time getting started. Write down right now 2-3 job duties that drag you down; you’d prefer to push them aside, and do them later in the day, or tomorrow…or never.” This is a simple conversation that you can have as a career professional with any client. Many of our clients will present us with a story about a bad job fit, which is often characterized with negative opinions about the job’s circumstances, such as lousy pay, a bad boss, a long commute, and so on.
But take some time to probe their story for more details about regular or frequent job duties. Here's a simple exercise you can use to bring more clarity into the situation. Ask them, what are the 5-10 job duties that they are expected to perform each day or week as critical job requirements? Get them to identify which job duties they enjoy and don’t enjoy. Ask them if they can remember a time when they looked forward to Monday mornings, in their current job, or in another job. If you have their resume handy, ask them to highlight the critical job requirements that they enjoyed performing on a regular basis in their previous jobs. Perhaps they procrastinate with starting or completing certain job duties. Get them to identify the job duties in their current and previous jobs where they procrastinated. Identify items (both positive and negative) that seem to recur in their performance evaluations, regardless of who does the assessment. Make a list with two columns: one of job duties that energized them, duties that they enjoyed performing consistently; and, another column, of job duties that drain them, duties that they push aside or procrastinate on. Then take their current job description and estimate how much time is spent each day or week performing job duties that drain them. If they are spending 40% or more of their time performing job duties that drain them, or duties that they chronically delay doing, they may be suffering from a job misfit in terms of their critical job requirements.
What is a good job fit? It may be helpful to remind your client that there is no such thing as a perfect job where one is 100% happy and satisfied all the time with their core job duties. The world is just not organized that way! However, many studies show that the key to career success is to limit the downside of a job to 40% of job duties. The remaining 60% of job duties should be organized around your client’s natural strengths, especially how well their talents and motivations correlate with their core job duties. In general, if we spend about 60% of work hours in a job fit, then our work will be challenging and will provide a sense of growth and fulfillment. Try to correlate your client’s natural strengths with specific job duties. Help them develop a job description aligned with what makes them happy and productive in the workplace, so that they can operate 60% of the time in a mode that comes naturally and effortlessly to them. This 60/40 split will energize them. This is job fit. However, we may also need to remind them of the likelihood that many times this 60/40 ratio may slip to 40/60 or worse, in which case they may feel drained by brief periods of routine work. This is nothing to be alarmed about as long as the ratio returns to 60/40 in due course; if it doesn't, they'll need to take action.
In performing this simple exercise with your client, you may discover that they do, indeed, have a good job fit. You can then turn your attention to the frustrating factors of their job circumstances. But if you and your client agree that there is a serious misalignment between their natural strengths and the critical requirements of their current job, you can then discuss opportunities for refashioning their current job into a better job fit, or finding a better fit with their current employer, or identifying other careers/jobs that will recognize and reward them for the job duties that energize them. At that point, an assessment may be in order, one that can match them to good job fits--specific jobs in specific work settings with the right combination of extrinsic and intrinsic factors to bring out the best in them and reward you for their strengths. A good career assessment can provide such matches with clarity. The information may be valuable in terms of developing options with their current employer or with a new career target.
If how you feel about going to work on a Monday morning is an accurate “thermometer” for measuring your job fit, then you can raise the temperature by helping your clients wake up excited about the coming day’s activities.