Finding Your People

03 May by Alicia Vroegop

Finding Your People

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." - Aristotle

I want to share a little bit about the importance of finding the right fit for you with your next career move.

First, a personal story. 

I once worked for a bank that shall remain nameless (but they had a penchant for black horses and concert music). Anyhoo... As part of a large HR team, I jetted off to the annual HR Conference, all excited, and bags packed with “an item that makes a noise” that we were all asked to bring along. Long story short, my whoopee-cushion was none-too-popular, and the powers-that-be descended on my boss, demanding that she ‘have a word’ with me about how inappropriate it was. Cue an awkward cliff-side discussion with an 'image-management’ flavour and some foot-shuffling in the dirt. I felt about as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool, and the ensuing few months of the toned-down version of Alicia was akin to wading through knee-deep mud in gumboots.

Needless to say, I did some navel-gazing to consider whether stuffy financial institutions were a good idea for me. I know what it’s like to want a job so badly that you’re prepared to compromise on this area. Maybe the salary is amazing, the location is perfect or there’s a prestige to the company that will give your Dad something to be proud of. But making this compromise will leave you, at best, disappointed, at worst losing confidence and feeling rejected, bitter or depressed. 

It does take some maturity to fully know yourself, and I’m still learning! But I can say hand-on-heart that there are a few core aspects of me that have NEVER changed, regardless of circumstance, age or influence. Building on that, and understanding my quirks, my strengths, my buttons, my weaknesses and acknowledging that there are places where this doesn’t fit, required me to be fully honest with myself.  And when I came to the place where I could fully accept that I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea – I felt freed. Free to be myself, and find my place in the world. 

Team fit is an aspect of making career choices that is too important to ignore. We spend so much time in our jobs, and the environment will either give you energy (when it's right) or drain the living s**t out of you.   

 So how do you find these things out?

  • The first questions to ask, is not to anyone else. It's to you. Write down what you know of yourself that is important to you. Whatever it is, learn to know who you are, and learn to trust your instincts through the application process.

  • Do your homework on the company before applying. Look at their marketing - what essence are they portraying? Do they hire in talent, or develop and grow it? Do they share the same values and ethics as you? Employee feedback on websites like Glassdoor can be invaluable.

  • Arrive to an interview 10-15 mins early. A bit of people watching will give you a sneak-peak of the culture, and of the types of people who work there.

  • A really good question to ask is "what type of people do well here?". This will give you a huge insight into the personality types and work styles that work in well.

  • During the interview process, be open about how you like to work and your personality - it's better to be declined on 'team fit' because you've been authentic in the recruitment process than to be hired in a job you want to leap out of in quick succession.

Enlightened career choices are exciting. You actually look forward to going to work (most days). You will start to understand that things like prestige, better phones, fancy offices and what others might think, are insignificant, compared to your sanity and happiness at work. You might decline the job offer in the brand new high-rise full of good-looking suits in favour of the role in a noisy fabrication factory with instant coffee - because these are your kind of people, and you know can bring your authentic self and skills to work. It could be that you’re trying too hard to be an apple, when you were born a banana.

Life is short, be true to you and you will experience an authentic life.