MCLEOD: Is your job the problem or is it your personality?

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

How did you choose your profession?

Did you lie awake at night as a child fantasizing about spending 10 hours a a day hunched over a computer?

If you’re like most people, you probably fell into your profession.

When I was a kid my secret dream was to be a televangelist. But I gave up on that after I told my mother and she informed me that I’d have to start going to church.

Gallup polling data reveals that 20 to 30 percent of people are actively engaged in their work. That means a good 2⁄3 of the people schlepping to work every day are going through the motions, toiling away in jobs they don’t particularly enjoy.

And we wonder why depression is on the rise.

We can blame bad bosses or poor management practices. But I believe the root problem is that most people stumble into their professions without enough self-knowledge to know what they would actually be great at.

We tend to choose a job based on the pay, work surroundings, what other people tell us we should do, and what happens to be available at the time. In the current economy, many feel lucky just to have a paycheck.

But if you’re in a job you’re not suited for, it’s only a matter of time before you’re miserable. And if you’re miserable, chances are, you’re not delivering super star performance for your company or colleagues. As my dad says, “If you’re unhappy with them, it’s only a matter of time before they’re unhappy with you.”

I would know. I spent the first five years of my career in the wrong job until a quick personality test (Myers-Briggs) revealed that I was never going to be happy in a job with no creativity.

One common source of career misery is people who are working in the right subject area but in the wrong role.

For example, many people become teachers because they liked history, biology or English lit. Yet they get into the job and realize that they don’t actually like preparing lessons or patiently helping poor students learn. A love of Chaucer isn’t enough; a good teacher is someone who enjoys making personal connections with students.

The same thing applies to any other profession. If you’re an introvert who recharges by being alone, you probably don’t want to be a customer service rep. You may love books or computer games, but the last thing you need is a job selling them.

When we’re unhappy with our work, it’s easy to blame our misery on the boss, company or the working conditions. It’s scarier to admit that we might simply not be a fit. Acknowledging that you’re not well-suited for your profession feels like failure.

But it’s not.

It simply means that your job isn’t a good match for your inherent skills or personality.

If you’re an extrovert, or a touchy feely type, or analytical, that’s probably how you were born. No amount of training or incentive pay is going to turn you into something you’re not.

It’s not the boss’s job to figure out where you would be better suited; it’s yours.

Do a free on line Myers-Briggs test or another assessment to help you better understand yourself and start moving towards something that will make you happier.

People who hate their jobs wind up not being very good at them. You deserve better than that. And so does your employer.

Sign up for Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod’s newsletter at www.TriangleofTruth.com.