Every day I come across people who are in the wrong job. You do, too. They are sad, unhelpful and may seem incompetent. It’s tempting to get mad at them, but the more humane response is compassion. No one feels comfortable doing a job for which they are a bad fit.
These experiences are frustrating, which is why it’s so refreshing to come across someone who is in the right job. Glenn O’Neill, for example, is a middle school teacher who has taught social studies to all three of my kids. He is always upbeat, inspiring and insightful; the students love him, and the parents do, too. Most importantly, he seems to love what he does.
In honor of this great teacher, I created The Glenn O’Neill Test. It will help you understand if you are actually a good fit for your current job:
Do people seek you out? If others go out of their way to tap into your expertise, it’s a very good sign you are in the right position. To test this, ask yourself a hard question: do people come to you for help because they have to, or because they want to?
Do “customers” recommend you? Everyone has customers, even if you don’t call them that. Someone depends on you to do your job well. The highest compliment is when these folks praise your skills to others. When people recommend someone, they are putting their personal reputation on the line. Do others respect the job you are doing enough to risk their reputation endorsing you?
Does your job feel “just right?” It’s not too easy, but it’s not too hard, either. You generally don’t get either overwhelmed or bored. This can be a really hard balance to sustain, and it’s quite possible that the job that was perfect for you two years ago is too basic for you today.
Do you have room – and the energy – to grow? Every year should bring fresh challenges. It’s a giant warning sign when your job theoretically leaves you room to grow, but you lack the energy to tackle those “challenges.” Early in my career, I worked in an entry-level position for WGBH/Boston, the public broadcasting station. My supervisor gave me a review that said I still had plenty of room to master my basic responsibilities, but I perceived those tasks were so far below my aspirations as to not be worth my time. Her supervisor agreed, and pulled me out of the department to take on on a much more challenging position.
Are you eager to learn? People who think they know everything there is to know about their job are at risk of getting old, jaded and inflexible. The world is constantly changing, and there are always new skills and insights to learn. If you don’t feel this way, you’re in the wrong job.
Are you comfortable with your compensation? We all could use more money, but it’s critical that you are able to make things work on your current income. Life is not always fair, and sometimes society doesn’t value highly enough the job you were born to do. You may have made other life decisions – such as having four kids – that preclude you from being a good fit for a job you otherwise would love. Few things eat away at your soul like feeling that you are underpaid for the work that you do.
Does your job fit your self-image? Human beings are complicated. We don’t just need money and something worthwhile to do. Many of us need prestige, power, or respect. Some people care more about their influence than their income. Others want to be in the room when big decisions are being made. While your job won’t satisfy all your needs, it should be a good fit with who you really are.
Are you thankful? Gratitude is important. I feel bad for people who don’t know how lucky they are until they lose what they had. If you are actively thankful for your job, the odds are good that others are also thankful you are in your position.