Are You In the Right Job for You? (& What to Do If Not)

right job

There I was, sitting in the conference room at one of my former jobs. It was what I call a “B+ job”—a good but not great job; a perfectly nice, challenging, job that fell far short of being meaningful, exciting, of feeling like my right work.

The company was holding a professional development day, during which all employees took a personality test. The idea, of course, was that through the test results, we’d better understand our strengths and weaknesses and those of our colleagues, and that we’d be able to work together more effectively. The usual.

The test was called “True Colors” and categorized people into four personality styles, each named with a color. I was a blue. Let me restate that: I was an off-the-charts blue – scoring almost the maximum number of “blueness” points.

The blue personality type resonated with me so much that my energy level went through the roof just from listening to the facilitator read the description of the blue type, which seemed to include all of favorite things: authenticity, aesthetics, calm, self-expression, harmony, creativity—I could go on.

A few minutes later, after all the descriptions had been read, my colleague Todd grinned at me and said, “I know what you are – you are a gold!

Gold? I had scored lowest on gold. Every word used to describe the gold sensibility inspired involuntary eye-rolling in me–words like “responsibility,” “structure,” “maintenance,” “stability” “efficiency.” This was the stuff in life that had annoyed and fatigued me for thirty years.

Granted, I never had felt a tremendous kinship with Todd, or felt particularly “seen” by the guy, but we had worked closely together. How could he think I was a gold?

But then, dear reader, I must tell you: Todd wasn’t the only one to guess my type wrong that day.

How could the people I work with closely and interact with daily, have such a misguided sense of my authentic personality, of my actual strengths and weaknesses?

Because my job wasn’t the right fit for my personality, and because in it, I wasn’t being me — certainly not loudly, boldly, clearly.

The role I was doing on my project with Todd was a gold role. It was all about details and structure and creating an orderly process. I was dutifully doing that role, looking like a gold, and resenting it every step of the way.

Second, the organization I was in was primarily a gold organization. Its culture was akin to a gold personality. Fascinatingly, most of the long-time employees were also gold types; they found a good fit.

But the third reason my colleague could have mistaken me for a gold is perhaps the most important: Even though I was performing highly in my job, the truth was, I was hiding. I wasn’t bringing forth my real strengths as much as I could. I wasn’t leading with them.

Fast forward a few years, and my life looks very different. I’m all about blue in my work and my life, and let me tell you, it’s much, much better over here on the others side.

The moral of the story? The questions for all of us are these:

  • What strengths and qualities are really needed in your job, and do those match up with your core gifts and your personality style?
  • If your role and your strengths aren’t well-aligned, what’s the impact of that on your happiness and work? If they are well-aligned, what’s the impact of that?
  • No matter what your current situation, what creative ways can you come up with to use your strengths and gifts more fully, starting right away? Small and subtle changes can make a huge difference. You don’t have to change your job – you can change how you do your job, so that it’s better aligned with your personality and natural strengths.
  • What’s the “personality” of your organization, and does it fit well with your own personality?

To be sure, sometimes it’s fun—and lucrative—to be the grounded one in an organization of crazy dreamers, or the visionary in a team of pragmatists – if what you bring is recognized and utilized. If not, that experience can be depleting and erode your sense of self.

This matters–a lot. Recent research has shown that both job satisfaction and job performance are correlated with job-personality fit; you’ll increase both your excellence at work and your enjoyment of your work if you take seriously the questions above.

Who are you, really? Who are you when are you at your best? What are the strengths that make you stand out? Are those the ones most needed in your job and most valued within your company?

Photo by Joshua Hoffman

23 thoughts on “Are You In the Right Job for You? (& What to Do If Not)”

  1. Thanks for the story Tara. I remember doing some sort of color coding test with my company a long time ago – I think I was a green, but I don’t remember what that stood for.

    How would a test like this help an employer hirer the right people?
    Do you know of any similar free tests we could take?

    Thanks! Katie

  2. Tara – I love that you say, “You don’t have to change your job – you can change how you do your job, so that it’s better aligned with your personality and natural strengths.” I totally agree. It often isn’t where you are at as much as it is who you are at what you are doing. This is a fantastic article. I hope it helps people realize how to resolve this dilemma in their lives.

    1. Thanks Jeff! I’m so glad this resonated with you. I totally agree with what you say – often with clients we work on how they can use more of their natural strengths and work in a way that is aligned with their values in their current job. There are more creative possibilities for doing this than most of us assume, but once we think about it or brainstorm with a good partner, we can start to see those options. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  3. Thanks for sharing. I totally agree with you. I believe it is all about how you use the strengths. If you use it correctly, you will flow with the river flow. If you use it wrongly, you are flowing against the river flow. However, the key question is…… how many people really know what are their strengths? Most people believe that they should be trained in everything and be well rounded. If one trait is bad, they will rush to improve on it. On the contrary, most successful people are very focused and sharp and never well rounded. Hence, I strongly believe in focusing on the strengths and manage your weaknesses just adequately.

    1. Thanks Arthur. I totally agree- the focus on well-roundedness doesn’t serve people as well, I think, as really does knowing and leading with one’s strengths, with attention to managing your weaknesses, and simply knowing what they are too.

  4. Hi Tara.

    I’ve talked to a few people feeling like that they are stuck in a rut, and they shouldn’t be…if there is anyone who can make changes, it should come from within themselves. (Who else is going to fix the problem, after all?) When I first ventured into resume writing, I knew I was going to help a lot of people, and that is the best part of what I do. So here I am doing this wonderful thing that I absolutely love, and I have not looked back since.

    I hope the job seekers and career changers out there (and those who already have a job but are unhappy) will not lose their sense of humor and the fire they had in their bellies when they started their first job…you do remember that feeling, right?

    Karen, The Resume Chick (o Google or Twitter for questions, comments or violent reactions)

    1. Thanks Karen. I’m so glad you’ve found work that’s the right fit for you. And sounds like you do a beautiful job offering people assistance while holding them fully accountable for making change in their lives.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  5. What a great post Tara, thanks for sharing that story–I think it happens all the time. I know when I worked in a corporate job it totally didn’t ‘fit’ my personality–and it showed in how I performed my job and felt about myself–it became an endless negative cycle.

    I agree the key is figuring out who we are and expressing that to the world–the trick is letting down our guard after the years of getting positive feedback on the person we are pretending to be.
    Once you find a career that fits your personality and your natural strengths you wonder how you ever did life before!!

    1. So true! It really is hard to look back once you’ve made the shift to work that really fits.

      And yes, I also love your point that there’s a real challenge in letting go of the praise (or salary or prestige or whatever) that came from doing work that wasn’t a fit.


  6. This experience resonates with me. I was seen as the “organizer.” It wasn’t something I particularly loved, but I was good at it, and people around me thought the best thing for me would be to become a project manager.

    And I’m good at it. But after a while, I decided marketing and writing was the way to go. That made me happy, and I’m getting a ton better. And now those same people are wondering why I didn’t do writing a long time ago.

    Sometimes, you’ve just got to follow your heart to find the right fit. And it’s okay if you don’t find the right fit right away. Just keeping trying until you do.

  7. When I do not like a job or do not enjoy to work in a certain company, I leave. I now have my own company and do what I really enjoy. I know people who work 30 and more years in the same company, same room and always do the same. To the question if they enjoy what they do, they say: “Well, this is my job!” They do their work and then they live. Some of them have been financially quite successful. It is maybe not surprising that those have health problems. One has cancer – she says that there is no reason (Not to be so happy for 1/2 of the day is reason enough!), the other has a depression and wonders! At the other hand, I do not believe that we could all do what we really love to do and many people have no clue, what they really like to do. I say that being happy is more important than money, though a lot of money can tremendously increase happiness. Having it all makes a life successful.

  8. I like the question about being creative to come up with ways to use our strengths and gifts. So many people overlook their own good qualities and talents, and thus don’t use them at work. If we focus on being creative in the workplace, not only will it switch things up when things get boring, but it also helps us to be more successful. I recently started a job fresh out of college, so this post is really valuable to me. So thank you, Tara! Great post! :D

  9. Hi Tara,

    I stumbled on to your blog and this post this morning while searching terms related to ‘change’ – in an attempt to name my consulting business, per Guy Kawasaki’s and Pam Slim’s advice.

    The title caught me attention since I’ve been grappling with this for the past year (since moving FT to a cubicle after being in classrooms for for 15+ years). To say it was a tough year is an understatement(!).

    Ironically, I AM the “staff development/training person” who facilitated True Colors in our department this year … and had to read on to make sure you weren’t one of our dept members writing incognito. Seriously!

    I, too, am a blue – used to be off the charts blue – but my green has pushed ahead by a point or two… I’m green/blue with gold trailing far behind and then orange. The low orange score SHOCKED me because I am truly a GOOFBALL and look for a laugh in everything. Truth is, I suppress it in cubicle world (a little), but it sneaks out often enough. Worst part is, I work for a die-hard GOLD Boomer whose value system is TOTALLY opposite of mine.

    Our department members learned a lot from the True Colors session which actually developed into many side-bar conversations and questions throughout the rest of the school year (I work for a school district). I often found myself counseling coworkers as they worked to understand their cube mates better. Interesting! When I coupled it with generational learning/working, WOW!

    So, I’m working diligently to get my own consulting biz off the ground: staff development/training with lots of engagement/purpose/FUN ( the way I taught and trained for years), along with writing, blogging, speaking, mentoring, grant-writing, tutoring, and whatever else comes my way… dealing with people (blue) and research (green). Good stuff!

    Thanks for the post! :) I’d love to link it to my work-related blog,


  10. that’s so true, i have also read that when your core values differ from the core values of the company then you are considered a virus inside the system and you should quit as soon as possible

    1. I firmly agree with you, I am walking in that shoes now, because my core values differ from my company’s values and every single day I feel that my own creativity is blocked by my job and I feel that I am in a trap. I realize that if I would like to find a better job, I have to quit from my current position firstly and focus on the process to find myself and my own creativity again, because if I achieve this, I will be able to find the position which suits me the best because with the gathered force and belief, I will be able to attract everything in my life what I would like…and I have to realize that I am the only chief culprit in connection with the felt condition of limited possibilities which were created by only me for myself…This is easier said than done but I feel, I have to do it in the following months, because I have many goals and I am not be able to accomplish them now due to my slaver-overlander employer…

  11. Many times, people take on a job, which they are not really interested in and which does not fit them, because of the monetary remuneration it brings. Then, they spend their whole working years bored and unhappy. As a result, the work they perform fall short of excellence.

    It has been the advice to follow one’s passion and natural talents when choosing a job, no matter what compensation it brings, Passion and talent will result in excellent work output, which will lead the performer to higher income possibilities due to success in the years to come.

    One thing new I learned from your article, Tara, is your statement “You don’t have to change your job – you can change how you do your job, so that it’s better aligned with your personality and natural strengths.” Yeah, why did I not come across that teaching in my previous readings?

    So, if you cannot find a good-paying job that fits you, you change yourself to fit the job at hand. That is happiness. When one is happy in his work, he excels and become successful.

    Thanks, Tara, for these wonderful ideas in your article.

  12. Your in the right job when your happy to wake up each day to pursue your dreams. When you wake up in the morning and say ” lets get cracking on this work.” Not because I’m going to be filthy rich or have to pay my bills, but because i just love this JOB so DAMN much” Once you have this installed in the operating system called your mind.

    You can elevate your thinking and realize that success in life is about you being happy. This is the successful person everyone. It’s the guy or girl who is happy to be them. The guy or girl who is happy for what they have accomplished and what they plan to accomplish. Once you turn your medulla oblongata into this frame of mind. The next thing to do is, Spread the word and keep moving and never stop growing.

  13. When I took that test, they came right out and used words not colors. Guess they figure labeling a person with a color is better then with a word.

    Can’t even remember what I was. I pretty much know myself anyway, so guess it doesn’t really matter. One does need a job they like. When I was first out of school I had a job that I really hated (I know that is a harsh word) but hey I did not like it. I finally just quite and then found the job I liked. You know I wasn’s scared, but was proud of myself for saying, I don’t want to do this I can find something better. An I did. worked out good.

    •No matter what your current situation, what creative ways can you come up with to use your strengths and gifts more fully, starting right away? I really agree with this.



  14. Hi, very timely post. I just recently resigned from an industry where I worked for 7 years. Yes, I liked it and yes, I think it’s safe to say that I’m good at it but to say if I still enjoy it?my answer is no. But now I’m really doing what I want. I’m a freelance make-up artist and I so love what I’m doing. I guess it’s really important to find what you really, really want. thanks tara!

  15. I was in a job that just wasn’t right for me for a couple of years, and I can tell you that it almost killed me! I totally understand what you are saying, because it wasn’t that it was a terrible job, just that it wasn’t suited to me.

    This year I am all about trying to make as many changes in my life as I can. One of which is starting up my own business, and the other is blogging about the challenges along the way. It’s at:

    Thanks for the great article.


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