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Steve Heath

Great post! The part about feeling like an impostor really resonated with me. I work in a technical field but am not technical. I keep waiting to get thrown out for being incompetent.

Thank you for putting into words what I have not been able to get across to others...I have a good job but it is just the wrong job for me.


I worked in financial IT for ten years. I was good at it, became a consultant and earned a lot of money. And felt like a total impostor. It annoyed me and stressed me, and I had a hard time motivating myself towards the end. So that's 1, 2 and 3.

Today, I'm in life science informatics, which I still love after nearly a decade. I'm using many of the tools I was using before (Perl/Java/C++, Windows, databases, Excel and so on) but for some reason, I find working for biotech, pharma and medical device companies way more interesting. The money is better, I feel like I fit in, and I'm a happier person.


This is a really knotty one. When are you in the wrong job and when have you merely lost your way and your focus?

I am currently a scientific researcher, it can be a very introverted job, and I am most definitely an extrovert. I'd like to be a designer, but my very academic background makes transferring to such an artistic field very difficult and, even if that is not the case, the financial barriers to retraining may be too high. I am also currently just one career ladder step away from setting up my own group - a job that I am just dying to have a go at so I can put into practice everything I have learned from reading this blog. I am much more interested in the mechanics of running a group (and even the bread and butter of applying for grants) than I am in the practical side of running my own experiments.

So I am wondering how much of my feeling that I am in the wrong job is actually down to my own attitude? Bob's next post on idleness is also relevant here because I have been routinely underemployed and constant periods of inaction have made me very unhappy in my work. I am trying to increase my workload in order to find out how much of the problem is idleness and how much of it is bad fit, but sometimes it is hard to know.

Should I take the very high-risk option of trying to retrain for a job that I hope will be a better fit, but may turn out to be no better, or should I stick with the bird in the hand, which I am struggling to motivate myself to do well, but which hold the promise of a massive improvement if I can only stick it out (and find the motivation to do it well) another 2 or 3 years?

A knotty problem indeed...


Bad Job\Wrong Job:Bad Boss\Wrong Boss.

One job I had; my coworker said our boss was the best guy he ever worked for. I thought he was a candidate for Bob Sutton book cover.

The reality was the wrong boss for me (probably the most significant factor in a wrong job), the wrong employee for the job, not a good fit for the culture.

The job and the company was not "bad," just a bad fit.


This is topic which I have given a lot of thought to recently as it hits close to home.
I look at this issue in terms of three criteria: Individualism (pursuit of personal goals) vs. Collectivism (priority of group goals over individual goals), Universalism (applies to all persons and/or all things for all times and in all situations) vs. Particularism (judgment can be found only as one decides particular cases) & Inner Directed (The environment is there to be utilized and conquered) vs. Outer Directed (The environment needs to be protected and lived within). Preferences vary between companies, groups and regions, but in general the tendency in the U.S. is towards the former in each of these pairings. Those who tend towards the latter option in any of these pairings are likely to experience difficulty in fully fitting in. Those who are further misaligned, be it through extreme differing values on one of these spectra, or by being fairly far apart on all of them, are likely to find themselves swimming upstream or worse yet, eventually as fish out of water. I believe that gaining an understanding of whether or not your values are aligned with a potential employer’s culture can help you estimate your probability of success and compatibility with the firm.
-Chris Oestereich

Alan Carniol

This is a great posting. When I look at your list, it focuses on three main concepts -
1)authenticity & personality
2)engagement & work motivations
3)culture & values

I'd add to the list one more big one
4)strengths & capacity to deliver results


It's the wrong job if you have a value system that is different from your boss.

My coworker and I approach our work very differently. Under previous management, I was doing everything "right", and my coworker was doing everything wrong. Management changed, and now I'm wrong and my coworker's approach is right.

Neither of us changed how we work, and the work itself didn't change either. Just the boss. And that made all the difference.

For me, it certainly went from being the right job, to the wrong job.

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