It wasn’t long after I graduated from college that I grew frustrated with my job. I worked in a fast-paced industry. I was the assistant general manager of a small hotel, and I felt constantly distracted, overstimulated and stretched too thin. Although I loved the basic tasks associated with my job, including managing the budget and scheduling employees, I felt that more of my time was spent putting out fires, answering phone calls and trying to refocus after each interruption. Each day I struggled with forgetfulness and anxiety. Sometimes, I was downright rude to my employees.
Within nine months of accepting my position at the hotel, I left. I spent some time navigating a few different part-time jobs until I started freelance writing. I felt I was thriving in my work for the first time. It wasn’t until I settled into my life as a freelancer that I finally began to see the value of choosing a career that suits your work style.
If you are facing a career change or struggling to find work that feels like a comfortable fit, consider this advice for understanding how you work best.
Choosing a career is so much more than knowing what you want to do — you must also understand how you want to do it. If you have the privilege of choosing a work track that suits your unique personality, take your time getting to know yourself and what you desire when it comes to work/life balance. You can accomplish this in many ways, some young professionals find personality tests such as the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or the Enneagram incredibly helpful. Or you can reflect on past jobs and create a concrete list of what you liked or disliked in previous workplaces as well as the hopes you have for your future career.
Are you an early bird who crashes hard by 5 p.m.? Are you introverted, working best when you are left to your own devices? Does teamwork and collaboration get your creative juices flowing? Consider how you respond to supervision. Are you one who does well working closely with management, or would you feel suffocated or micro-managed by regular direction from your supervisor? Additionally, you should take a close look at what motivates you to do your best in a job. Is the mission of the company and the vision behind your daily tasks essential to your personal fulfillment? Or are you most concerned with a healthy paycheck that will allow you to pay off student loans or make progress toward your financial goals?
These are all things you should consider before saying yes to your next job.
Be willing to make compromises
In some fields, finding a position perfectly suited to your personality may not be possible. One job may provide the collaboration and teamwork you desire, but the schedule is demanding or inflexible. Knowing what characteristics are most important to your ability to thrive in your new career is essential to determining which compromises you are willing to make. If being home for dinner each night with your partner is a non-negotiable, are you willing to compromise on your desire to work on a collaborative team?
One way to figure out which compromises you are willing to make is to rank your priorities based on importance. Then, when you are offered a new position, you will be able to weigh how satisfied you will be in your new workplace.
Ask for adjustments in the work environment
Many workplaces are seeing the value of offering a level of flexibility to their employees. Smart employers understand that their employees all bring their own strengths to the table and may require adjustments to be made to the work environment in order to thrive.
If a change in job isn’t an option for you at this time, don’t feel stuck in a position that is poorly suited to your work style. Instead, considered asking your employer if adjustments can be made to your work environment.
For instance, if you are struggling with distraction in your busy workplace, finding focus may be as simple as asking to wear noise-canceling headphones while you work. If you thrive when you work in a team, but your workplace encourages independence, pitch the idea of a once-a-week brainstorming luncheon to your immediate supervisor.
For those of us just beginning our professional lives, taking the time to get to know ourselves could be the smartest move we make. When you understand how you work best, you are setting yourself up for a future of maximum growth and contentment in your career.
Originally published on August 22, 2016.