December 20

Signs your job is not the right fit (and how to make it better)


Why do you see some people who do more and more, but never seem tired? But then you see others who do the bare minimum, and then are willing to drop it at the first sign that it’s time to go home?

One word.


I remember the first time I heard about job fit, after I got rejected from an interview. The CEO took time to explain her decision.

We think that this won’t be a role fit for you.

When we hire someone, we realise it’s not just about their career, but it’s about their life.

A role fit? What was a role fit?

Think of finding a jobfit like wearing a glove. You would want all the glove fingers to fit snugly onto your fingers, rather than one finger fitting, whilst the other falls through.

be content
It is possible to be happy at your job, if you find a job fit

Similarly, there are 6 different components of job fit that you should consider when you’re looking for a job.

Don’t just pick a job for the sake of having a job.

In this article, I’m going to go through the myths of job fit, before looking at the practical tools you can take to find a better job fit.

Myth 1: It’s just a job

I met a couple recently. If you looked at them, it seemed like they had everything. They had a nice apartment in central Singapore. They had a beautiful car to drive. They had good jobs in brand-name companies. Yet when I spoke to them, there was something missing. There were few jokes. There was no fullbodied laughter. Then I realised what was missing.


When I asked the man how he coped with his difficult job that required him to do shift work, and work with extremely complex technology (he didn’t like), he said,

Just take it as a job. It’s just 8 hours. After that you get to do whatever you like.

He had traded in a life where he could do something he loved, for moments of more. Little moments where he could drive his car. Or play his computer game. Or sit in his expensive chair.

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But he didn’t love the 8 hours he spent at his job.

You may think the same. It’s just a job, isn’t it? You just have to do it for 8 hours, and then do whatever you want at the end of it. It doesn’t matter whether you have fit or not.

But doing that can feel like giving up your own soul in exchange for something that doesn’t really matter.

You end up salving the deep sense of dissatisfaction you feel at your job with things that you think will make you happy – like adventures, or the latest technology, but they never truly last.

Do they?

Do you know why doing work you’re interested in, are good at, and love, is so important?

Because with the work you do, you’re shaping the world with your talent.

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If you’re struggling with work, perhaps a reason to ask yourself is whether you’re using your talent

You’re bringing a world that matters to you, shaping it with your hands, into life. You’re given a unique set of skills that no one else can do.

It’s not just about making use of your skill.

It’s about honouring what you’ve been given.

Sure, when you first start using your skill, you may feel that you’re getting nowhere. And it’s painful to use it, develop it, and gradually get better at it.

Duckworth's graph of skill development over time
Duckworth’s graph of skill development over time

As you can see from Duckworth’s graph of skill development, there will be times when you come to plateaus. It can be tempting to take that as the absolute cap of your skill level.

But it’s not always the case. During times like that, it may be important to build up skills in lateral areas, which allow you to grow skills that build up your main corpus of skill.

For example, in Range, Epstein argued about how one’s ability to have multidisciplinary skills, rather than skills in a specific domain, eventually allowed someone to be much, much better.

He raised the example of Roger Federer, who did not specialise in tennis until after 15. When he was younger, he played a variety of sports before he eventually settled on Tennis.

As you work on your skill, you will find yourself finding joy. Rather than plugging away at something you’re not interested in, why not work at something you’re interested in?

Can I share with you my own story, so that you understand why seeking job fit is so important?

My story

Even though I’ve written since I was 9, I still find it difficult to sit in front of the computer everyday to write. I still struggle with finding the right angle to write, or to bring the feelings and the vision that I have in my mind into life. It’s just way too difficult for me.

And there are many times when I want to give up. To get a ‘real’ job.

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To get a job that may not fit me, but which I can earn money at.

But deep down, I know that it didn’t work for me.

I started as a social worker. For two years, I tried everything I could to do well. I would spend my personal time reading up on theory. Or recording my own sessions with clients so that I could pick up on things I could improve on. Or asking questions.

But it didn’t work out. I underperformed. I had a performance improvement plan.

It was only when I saw the success I had in writing, speaking and coaching that I realised,

Maybe it’s not that I’m bad, but that this particular job doesn’t fit.

In Singapore, it’s unconventional to be a writer or an artist. When you grow up, if you tell people that you want to be an artist, people will tell you to get a real job. My dad has asked me before,

How are you going to sustain this? How are you going to get a house? How are you going to survive?

Those are good questions.

But worrying about those questions may lead you into analysis paralysis, where you end up thinking too much, but not acting enough.

It’s why my advice is:

If you’re not happy at your job, something is wrong.

There are too few days on earth to spend being unhappy 8 hours a day, year after year.

When that happens, start looking for something else.

The first step is to tune into yourself when you find yourself unhappy. Then start asking yourself,

if this continued for 10 more years, would I be okay with that?

Are you feeling that it’s all so tiresome, and you just want to give up? Throw in the towel?

The problem isn’t that you don’t want to change. It’s that you learn to settle. Settling is one of the most dangerous things to do. Because over time, you become ‘okay’ with ‘okay’. You stop chasing an extraordinary life. You give up the chance of the extraordinary, in exchange for being ‘okay’.

Myth 2: There’s no perfect job, so I should stop thinking so much and be grateful for what I have.

You’re not being ungrateful. You’re accepting that there can be more to life than this.

Whilst there’s no job that will fit completely like a glove, there are aspects of a job that are important to you. I would like you to take a moment to look at the six elements listed below.

  1. How would you rank them in your current job?
    1. Give them a score from 1-5, with 5 being the best fit at your current workplace. Are there things you want improved?
  2. Which are the 3 elements that are most important to you?

These elements are taken from ‘Fit Matters’ by Moe Carrick and Cammie Dunaway. According to this particular book, these elements matter differently to individuals.

Taken from Carrick and Dunaway's 'Fit Matters', these elements help you to see what you can do to build an even better fit with work.
Taken from Carrick and Dunaway’s ‘Fit Matters’, these elements help you to see what you can do to build an even better fit with work.

Thinking about your job fit is not about being ungrateful. In fact, it’s about being grateful for what you have and wanting to do your best for the job you’re at.

Myth 3: Jobfit is a once-off negotiation

Jobfit is a constant negotiation. It doesn’t stop the moment you find a job. But taking regular timeouts when you look at whether the work you’re doing is fitting with who you are as a person helps you to be constantly engaged with your job.

Dragging your feet to work is something you can do, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Life’s too short to do that.

Don’t live with the lie that jobs are meant to be tolerated – there can be something beautiful that comes out of it

Myth 4: I should spend more time reflecting

It’s tempting to think that we are going to find more answers reaching within, and then trying to figure things out. But it may not be the case.

According to Brian Little’s book ‘Who are you, really?’, we find out who we are through the things we do.

We may think that who you are affects what you do. But there’s a flip side to that.

What you do affects who you are.

This is because personal projects are all about the future – they point us forward, guiding us along routes that may be short, and jerky or long and mouth.

By tracing their route, we can map the most intimate of terrain: ourselves. Most thrilling is that we can learn to adjust our trajectories, riding over the rough patches and extending the smooth stretches to make our endeavours more effective.

In this way, projects help define us- they shape our capacity for a flourishing life.

Because in an important sense, as go your projects, so goes your life.

Brian Little, ‘Who Are You, Really?’

Instead of meditating like a monk on what job you think may fit best, why not try out a small project where you do that? When I initially started my role as a social worker, I knew that the longer term vision was to be a professional speaker. Yet I had no idea how that would work out. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come through work, I went out to seek my own opportunities.

  • I joined a toastmasters club.
  • I asked people for engagements.
  • I asked people if I could be an emcee for them.

At the same time, I started developing thought leadership by writing regularly about social work, mental health.

I didn’t know where the job fit lay, but I actively sought to create it.

Similarly, you may not know where your job fit lies today. But take a look at the projects in your life now.

See if you can develop more expertise and experience in a job that you really want.

The day I left my job

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I remember the day I left my job. I had no job offer lined up, and I wasn’t clear about what I was going to do for the rest of the months ahead. It was scary. But when I walked out of that environment, I knew that I had made the right choice.

I felt the immediate headspace to engage with my friends. To laugh again. To stop feeling like I had to live up to the label of being a high-performing employee.

I learnt that when you stripped away everything, you could find things that mattered to you again.

Come on this journey to greater job fit. Don’t give up on the feeling that better is possible. Because better is, if you dare to believe.


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  • Thanks for writing and posting this! Just to know that someone else has found their place and work in this life and is encouraging others to find it too, this particularly resonates with me as a fellow Singaporean 🙂

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