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Don’t feel right in your job? Don’t blame your career, blame the ‘fit’

These days, matching your job with your character, personality and values is becoming a must

Man using laptop and cell phone, looking over shoulderEmployers have discovered  that when an employee's personality meshes well with the office culture, it's a better experience for everyone, be they managers, colleagues, or the employee themselves, say experts. (Getty Images/Gerard Launet)

How well do you “fit” with your career and your job?

You might never have given much thought to that question. However, sources on the subject generally agree that the more closely your personality aligns with your career choice and work persona, the happier you will be in your career. (One study even goes as far as to say that the closer the match, the more likely you are to earn more.)

This notion of finding the right fit has changed considerably over the years, points out Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching. “Once upon a time companies used to hire for skill. End of story. Today, fit is becoming increasingly important and not just for the employer but for the job seeker and careerist,” she says. “The notion of fit has expanded far beyond skill. It encompasses things like a person’s character, personality traits and values.”

It’s important, Chadnick adds, because work is no longer a place where you simply exchange your skills and time for a paycheque: it’s become a meaning-seeking destination:

“We spend a lot of time at work and people are looking for some sense of purpose and alignment with who they are,” she says. “You never used to hear about authenticity at work. But now, smart employers have figured out that when a person fits with the culture, it will be a better experience for everyone. Win-win all around.”

Stephen Shedletzky, head of brand experience and igniter at Simon Sinek, Inc., has a similar take. For him, finding the right alignment between who you are and what you do professionally is a question of work-life balance. “People think work-life balance is about how much time you spend at the office or how much hot yoga you do,” he says. “But it’s not about hours or hobbies. It’s about being in environments where you love who you are at work and you love who you are at home.”


According to Chadnick, many people who come to her for coaching are frustrated at work, causing them to question their career choices. 

“They might wonder, ‘Do I really want to be an accountant?’” she says. “But that might be misguided doubt. Instead of attributing their frustration to their entire career choice, they may want to reflect on their inner world—their personality, their preferences, their core values, and their strengths, both in terms of skills and character. Because that information can then become a compass for navigating their work lives for everything from interviewing to fitting in.”

By way of example, Chadnick describes, an accountant who has become an expert in tax and has found a position using that expertise—but in a behind-the-scenes, planning role. 

“That choice might not be quite right, because this person might also have a strong affinity for connecting with others,” she says. “If their job doesn’t give them enough time with clients, they won’t necessarily feel fulfilled. They need to find a position that includes some client management and client relations experience in addition to tax.”


A major part of fit has to do with values. “Increasingly, companies are naming their values. And they are taking them into account when hiring,” says Chadnick. “They might include everything from collegiality to ethics, fairness, respect or innovation.” 

Despite this new organizational emphasis, Chadnick says 90 per cent of her coaching clients have never been asked to name their core values and strengths. “Unless you have gone through leadership development or coaching, you may never have encountered such an exercise,” she says.

That’s why awareness is key, she adds. “You should know that in the interview process, organizations might ask you all kinds of questions about your values and what you might do in certain situations. Because if you place value on fairness and equity, for example, it’s going to show up at work, and it’s going to show up in your personal life. Conversely, if you are lacking in certain values, this may show up as well.”

“That can be extremely tough, but if you do it right, the rewards can last a lifetime,” he says.


Looking for a change? Find out why you feel stagnant on the job and what you need to consider before making a career transition.

Personality, values and tests

Most experts agree that having the right personality and values for a role can be just as important as the right skills.

But how is personality defined and how can you assess yourself? Here are a few of the many approaches out there.

This approach characterizes personalities in terms of five traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Each of these has been associated with certain tendencies in the workplace. For example, conscientiousness has been linked with the high levels of effort and motivation, and, as one article notes, is “the only personality trait that is consistently linked to career success over time.”

Based on Carl Jung’s theories, the MBTI operates on the assumption that people fall into fairly distinct classes, or types, of personalities, which are characterized by: 

• Extraversion (E) or introversion (I)
• Sensing (S) or intuition (N)
• Thinking (T) or feeling (F)
• Judging (J) or perceiving (P)

These classifications are then combined to create 16 unique personality types. For example, a person who shows characteristics of extraversion, intuition, thinking, and judging would be classified as ENTJ. Someone with elements of introversion, sensing, thinking and judging would be an ISTJ.

Understanding these different types makes it easier to develop ways of working with them. For example, as one article notes, ISTJs love facts, are relatively quiet, and use logic to arrive at their decisions.

“When you work with these folks,” it says, “be sure to listen when they speak. Also try to keep things as organized as possible, because they prefer order to chaos.”

Beyond personality, personal values are also used to assess candidates’ suitability for a job. One well-known system, which was developed by social psychologist Shalom H. Schwartz, identifies 10 basic values: 

• Power
• Achievement
• Hedonism
• Stimulation
• Self-direction
• Universalism
• Benevolence
• Tradition
• Conformity
• Security

Another system, the Rokeach Value Survey, analyzes an individual’s values according to 18 “terminal values” and 18 “instrumental values.” (Terminal values are the goals a person wants to reach and instrumental values are the proper ways to act in order to reach them.)

There are various personality test tools you can find online. In one article, Nisa Chitakasem, co-founder of career change specialists, Position Ignition, lists a few free online psychometric personality tests specifically targeted towards career changers: 

• Jung Typology Test
• Finding Potential: ‘Individuals’ Personality Questionnaire
• ‘What Career Suits Me’?

No matter how you stack up in a test, however, it’s important to remember that you are made up of a variety of traits. As Eileen Chadnick, principal of Big Cheese Coaching, points out: “Everyone is unique and employers are always looking for constellations of strengths, values and orientations. They are also looking for diversity. They realize that if they hire too much of the same type of personalities, they won’t get original thinking.”