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Find Your Fit

1 June 2010 No Comment
This column is written for statisticians with master’s degrees and highlights areas of employment that will benefit statisticians at the master’s level. Comments and suggestions should be sent to Keith Crank, the ASA’s research and graduate education manager, at keith@amstat.org.

Contributing Editor
Jack Nyberg is a senior manager within the statistics and pharmacokinetics department of Covance, a drug development services company. He holds a master’s degree in statistics and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Kentucky.

As summer approaches, my thoughts turn toward the coming warm weather. If you’re a recent graduate, your thoughts may be turning toward summer fun, but also toward the practical matter of finding your first job as a statistician.

I’m sure most of you have already thought about important factors that will influence your job search. Salary, location, and advancement opportunities are some of what we consider when ranking potential employers, but an easily overlooked consideration is “finding your fit.”

Finding your fit means that when you evaluate a job opportunity, you must evaluate whether the work culture fits your personality in addition to the tangible factors of salary, location, title, etc. That is, beyond the technical aspects of statistical work, every job is immersed in the culture of the organization, department, and project team. To find the right job for you, you must consider finding the right work culture for you.

Say you are lucky enough to field two job offers. Both are similar in almost every respect; however, one is with a fast-growing small organization and the other is with an established large organization. The smaller organization embraces a fast-paced and make-it-up-as-you-go-along culture and the other has a deliberate and process-oriented culture. Which job would you take?

To help answer this question, you must evaluate your personality, the potential employer’s culture, and how the two fit together.

What Kind of Personality Do I Have?

Most of you probably have a good idea about your likes and dislikes, but have you ever really tried to identify your personality type? If not, there are a number of wonderful resources (e.g., Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Test, John Holland’s Theory of Vocational Choice, etc.) that can profile your personality. Also, talk with your friends, family, or a trusted adviser to determine how other people perceive you. These assessments, combined with an honest self-evaluation, will help you discover your personality type.

What Is the Work Culture?

Once you know your personality type, identify the culture of the job under consideration. Good sources of information are friends or acquaintances who already work there. An Internet search of the organization may also help. Finally, ask questions during the interview process. Ask about the organizational, departmental, and team cultures.

Request to talk with potential coworkers and managers. At first, you may be reticent to ask many questions, but keep in mind that the process is two-way. They’re determining if you’d be a good fit there, and you’re determining if they’d be a good fit for you. If both of you succeed, then both of you win.

Am I Willing to Work Where My Personality Doesn’t Fit?

After you’ve determined your personality profile and the culture of the jobs under consideration, you might be in the enviable position of evaluating multiple job offers.

Unlike our scenario above, it is unlikely you’ll be comparing jobs that are essentially the same. One job may pay substantially more than the others. Or, one job may be in your ideal location. Whatever the mitigating circumstance, you must determine if you’re willing to take a job that may not be the best fit for your personality.

It is important to note that anyone can adapt to succeed anywhere. So if a work culture is not a good personality fit, you should not be totally dissuaded from taking the job. But, working in an environment that goes against your personality is like swimming against the incoming tide. You may not notice it at first, but it just makes it more difficult to reach success at that organization.

Will the Work Culture Fit with My Personality?

This question is similar to the previous one, but it powerfully shifts the focus. Instead of pressuring you to adapt to an ill-fitting culture, it requires the job to fit your needs.

Finding a job that allows you to honestly answer “yes” to this question makes it more likely you will find long-term success at that organization. Finding your fit makes work easier because you’re more likely to enjoy coming into work each day, collaborate efficiently with your coworkers, and respect your employer.

Although not easily quantifiable, these factors intuitively combine to make work enjoyable. When work is enjoyable, you are more productive, personable, creative, and energetic. These make you more valuable to your employer, which leads to career advancement opportunities. Although nothing is guaranteed, by taking a job that fits your personality, you are laying the groundwork for long-term success even before you’ve worked one day.

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