It sounds pretty harsh, until you think about that person who worked next to you for a year and never looked you in the eye, or the team leader who always found someone else to blame if anything went wrong, or the woman in accounts who moaned all the time…
It’s not just what you can do that counts, but what kind of person you are and how you will match your workplace’s needs and ethos.
In order to get a good match, you need to be very clear about what you can offer. Some attributes trip easily off the tongue and on to the CV — we all think we are good communicators, team players who can also work unsupervised, committed and passionate about whatever it is (so much passion about!) — and indeed we probably are.
But having a more focused grasp of what you as an individual can bring to a job will help you to stand out in the crowd, and will also help you to identify career routes and opportunities which will bring out the best in you.
Think outside the workplace. If you just think about yourself in a work context, you may get stuck in jobspeak, and you may miss qualities which could be relevant to your future happiness and success at work.
What activities do you enjoy, or would you enjoy if you had more time or opportunity?
Go through a typical day or week and think about all the things that gave you a buzz or a lift, or absorbed you. Make a list. Don’t dismiss anything as trivial. Here are some suggestions, which you can add to:
- Sport — playing or watching
- Fixing things
- Being outdoors
- Music — listening or playing
- Being with friends
- Playing with children
- Social media activity
- Pub quizzes
- Researching family history
- Theatre, cinema
- Collecting things
- Helping other people
- Having a good discussion
- Seeing different places
- Making things
- Planning activities
- Having time to yourself
- Political activity
- Community activity
- Church activity
Choose three activities which give you most satisfaction. Think about what aspects of your personality are seen in the way you engage with these pursuits.
For example, if you love cooking, think about what pleases you. Is it the process of following instructions and recipes meticulously, and seeing a perfect result, Delia-style, or are you more of a Nigella and don’t worry about a bit of slapdashery as long as it tastes delicious? What about any team activities? How much does winning matter to you?
Are you the person on the quiz team who accepts a majority decision, or are you the one who insists that Birmingham is the capital of Alabama (it’s Montgomery) and that The Beatles’ first number one single was She Loves You (it was From Me To You)?
Keep asking yourself: what does this say about me? Write down the qualities that come to mind. They might include:
- Calm and even-tempered
- Likes to make a difference
Come up with a description of what you are like as a person, just a line or two which will add some life and colour to your description and indicate how you will fit in with the people and the organisation you are applying to. Round pegs, square holes, all that. Sooner or later someone with a you-shaped gap to fill will be delighted to come across you.