Ready for a cold, hard truth? Here goes. You really can’t be anything you want to be, even if you try really hard. Now, most of us know that at some level. Most reasonable people would admit that no matter how hard they try, they’re probably not going to beat Michael Phelps to the other end of the pool. Regardless of the time spent at the gym, most of us don’t have the genetics to be the next Mr. Universe. But that’s not what I mean.
There are some regular people jobs out there for one reason or another fit so poorly with our personalities and/or our natural aptitude that it’s never going to work. If you would have told me so just a few years ago, I would have firmly reminded you that I had graduated from Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. And how during my time in that awful swamp, I had pushed myself beyond every limit of my body and my mind. I made it through and learned how to never quit.
That’s true. I did that. I knew then (and I know now) how to get over, under, around or through obstacles in the way. But what I wasn’t prepared for was what happens when everything you’ve got, your all isn’t enough. When pushing harder doesn’t make the thing move. When it happen to me, when I was FIRED, I was caught unprepared.
But first, let’s take a step back. After a fairly successful enlistment, I went on to get a decent corporate job and excelled at it. I was quickly promotes to an associate manager position, and all was well for a while. Not too long after my promotion, the company was sold and layoffs in my department were soon to follow.
I figured if I could make another move up, there would be a little more security. But since the only way up in my department was through my boss’s office (and she wasn’t going anywhere) a lateral move with a level up seemed to be the best course. So that’s what I did. And it worked. And I hated it.
I really did. The work was horribly boring. As expected, my new boss wasn’t thrilled with my performance. My heart wasn’t in it and it showed. Before long, I was starting to look outside for a new gig.
It just so happened that a good friend was a chief muckity-muck at another local company. It was an established business with a start-up culture. Which means they drink beer at work and curse a lot and right out loud. Oh, and the pay was much more than I’d even hoped for. Sounds great right?
Here’s the thing, I had no idea how anything worked. I just wanted the job so badly that I twisted my skill set around in my head until it fit the job description. If you get nothing else from the post, understand that doing this is a very bad idea!
For the first year, things went OK. I chalked the not so great days up to growing pains and buckled down. But, as was pretty common in the era, downsizing came around again. Clients left. Layoffs came. So I figured out where those clients went and followed them down the road to the new firm. The beginning of the end.
These folks were less forgiving and by the end of my first year, I was looking at a performance plan. A performance plan! I’d just spent the last 10 years getting nothing but glowing reviews and now I’m being “coached” on my failures to perform the basics of the job. What to do?
Like any good Marine, I doubled-down. No way was going to fail at this. I bought books. I read blogs and watched videos. I talked to everyone I thought could help me. I worked like crazy. I refused time off at the holidays. I did everything I could think to do.
Then I got the Outlook invitation.
It was an invitation to a meeting with my boss that just said “connect” in the message. On a hunch, I checked the HR lady’s calendar. She also had a “connect” at that time. My time was up.
So what, right? So I got fired from a job I wasn’t any good at. Should I have been surprised? Nah. Was I? I was, actually.
I was surprised because it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Lazy people get fired, and I was working like mad to do it right and to get better. But the fit was just so poor that it didn’t matter how much I studied or how much time I put in. It just didn’t work.
This isn’t all doom and gloom. The next job I landed fit like a glove. I had to learn yet another industry and work really hard, but my personal aptitude and personality just clicked. And I was back on top. And then the business was sold and I was laid off, but that’s not the point! I now have a better job in a similar industry that fits just right.
So, no. We really can’t do anything and we shouldn’t try to force a bad fit just to prove we can preserve. Find the fit and then do the work and things fall into place.
I had to learn that the hard way. Hardhead Jarhead.