Written by Sarah Sims
Chances are you have had a position somewhere in your career that was not a good fit. Perhaps that is your reality today, or perhaps you can look back and realize that was the reality of a position in the past and feel relief and gratitude it is in the rear view mirror. No matter your tenure or expertise in the business, it’s going to happen to you at some point in time and the ability to recognize an ill-fitting position early, determine your ability to navigate that situation, and maneuver in order to survive and create solutions is critical.
As much as we roll up our sleeves, dive in, and generally get things done in our business, there comes a time when we have to face reality and recognize we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or we are pursuing the wrong career path. Forcing a square peg in a round hole. What are the signs of a position that is not a good fit and how do we know when it’s time to move on? Here are three of the most common scenarios in which these questions arise:
Moral/Ethical Dilemmas: As consultants and individuals extremely dedicated and passionate to the non-profit and fundraising industry, if your organization puts you (as an employee, volunteer, fundraiser, etc.) in any type of ethical or moral dilemma, it’s the number one sign that you are in the wrong position. Period. End of story. No questions asked. Don’t even question or hesitate moving on. (If you ever have questions on a situation that falls into these categories and you would like an outside opinion, we are always happy to confidentially talk through this with you.)
Strengths and Skill Set Fit: This one is far less black and white and takes a fair amount of self-awareness and self-evaluation. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Does your current position allow you to capitalize on your strengths? Are you comfortably challenged, or are you forced into your areas of weaknesses the majority of the time? For example, if you are expected to build new and innovative programs for your organization, but developing strategy is not an area you are comfortable with, than likely you are consistently uncomfortable in your role. This may set you up for conflict with peers and unmet expectations with leadership. It’s a no-win situation for anyone. Being able to identify our strengths, identify the type of work that we excel at, and pursue and advocate for that type of work is difficult, but critical to our professional success and personal mental health. If you are in a position that consistently does not capitalize on your strengths, nor gives flexibility within the role to explore work that does fit those strengths, it may be time to consider a position change that will set you up for more personal success. (Don’t be afraid to partner with a professional mentor or take part in professional development and leadership coaching to explore this area based on your personal need and goals – we all need a good sounding board!)
Dwindling Fire: Passion for the work we do in the fundraising industry is very personal for many of us. It may not be a huge factor for everyone, but for most of us, work has to bring some level of joy, fulfillment, excitement, challenge, and general positive motivation. The good needs to outweigh the bad and we need see that we are making a difference in some way for our organizations and its beneficiaries. When stress, office drama, hierarchy headaches, unrealistic goals and expectations, challenging workplace dynamics, and a myriad of other negative factors begin to diminish that passion for the work, it’s time to reassess if you are in the right seat. We all deal with these things to some extent and no organization is perfect by any means, but if it is difficult for you to get excited about your job and you begin to dread your days, a good, deep look at the situation is warranted. I call it the Sunday Rule…if you are filled with dread and anxiety every Sunday evening as the new week approaches, than perhaps we need to reassess where you are, how you arrived there, and what needs to happen to turn that around. We need to find you solid ground again.
None of these situations are easy to maneuver. They may take time and a good amount of uncomfortable introspection or oversharing with a trusted friend, peer, coach, or leader. But know that you are never stuck, there are options, and moving on is not nearly as scary as it sounds. Finding your solid ground is key to your personal and professional success.