The importance of fit
Culture is a funny thing. Whether it be that of a country, age group, location, religious group, or company, it is something that is often underestimated, and can mean success or failure in any endeavor.
When I was young, I did not realize the importance of culture. I went abroad and found it interesting to note the differences, though not difficult to fit in. Lately, though, it is obvious, every day and in every way, that if you don’t fit, you won’t just be unsuccessful – you’ll be miserable.
I think a lot of that has come with the rapid advancement of technology, and with a group of people who have grown up with technology and not only call attention to themselves, but demand it, and live in a completely transparent manner. It has come with the fact that we can easily watch and interact with any number of people from around the world. So we think that everyone is as transparent and easy to figure out.
It’s not quite that easy. Being transparent, or merely being authentic, does not mean that others do the same – even when asked a direct question. Which makes it difficult to determine fit, especially within a company, until it is too late. Or there are companies that do not see culture as important, or think they have created one culture but have actually created another. These companies are deluding themselves, and often experience a high rate of turnover – and again, either don’t care or the smart ones wonder what is “wrong” in order to fix a bad pattern.
I am in the middle of a “job” search. After returning from my Peace Corps experience more than a year ago, I was eager to get back into a paid position. Even though I asked about the company culture, I found the answers misleading (very, as it turns out – though this came to light after I was already there). During that time, I was working long hours and making myself go to the office every day, and lost some of the lessons I had learned during my service. I felt like I had once again lost myself.
Being laid off was a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it took away my source of income – which paid my rent, and enabled me to eat, pay toward my student loans, and start to rebuild the life I had to give up not so long ago. It was devastating, as was an experience that followed immediately.
On the other hand, I realized that once again I had been in a position where I was working for a paycheck, and not because it was doing anything in which I had any enjoyment. Now, once upon a time that was the norm, but in this day and age, we’ve been taught differently – we’ve been taught that our source of income should be something in which we find meaning. And I found no meaning in what I was doing.
So I was able to revisit my lessons and realize that it is important for me to do what I want to do, what I like to do and what I am good at doing. Now comes the hard part – finding a company that is not only able to see what I have to offer (there is a lot of competition out there), but also a company whose culture fits mine.
I’ve had some rays of hope during the darkness – I have had a couple of interviews where it seemed like not only was the position a good fit, but the culture as well. Of course, this has to be a mutual belief. But what is encouraging to me is a conversation I had recently, where, in response to my question of how many people they are talking to about a position, the person responded by telling me it was difficult to answer, because he is looking beyond a person’s resume to whether the person would be a good fit at the company. This is a smaller company, where the people work in a very collaborative manner, and knowing that a person is going to come in and “fit” is of great importance to them.
This gives me hope – that there are organizations out there that pay attention to not just a checklist, but realize that a person is so much more, and that how a person fits in with a company’s culture is important, for both the employee and the company’s success.