When you’re on the hunt, you spend plenty of time scouring job posts and thinking of yourself as a commodity: Do I fit the description? Can I handle this job? Do they like me? Will they choose me?
What about what you want? If you’re willing to kick yourself out of your comfort zone and uproot your routine in pursuit of a more fitting job, take time and define exactly what fit means to you.
Ask yourself: In what ways do I want this new role to be different from my current job? What do I hope to learn in my next role? What aspects of my current job are a fit, and what parts aren’t?
Additionally, your assessment of your leadership team should be a core part of your evaluation. The management team that steers your unit, division, department has a tremendous impact on the work you do and the culture in which you do it. Leadership sets the cultural tone for your team, impacts your daily satisfaction in your job and dictates the growth potential you have in that role.
As you contemplate your next step, it’s important to be clear on what you’re looking for in a manager. Reflecting on this key component of job fit will afford you a more refined sense of your goals and priorities.
Creating your own criteria for what you need in a manager is a helpful exercise to add to your interview prep. Here’s how to get started:
Evaluate Your Current Manager
Think about your direct supervisor in your current role. Revisit performance reviews or any metrics, documents or notes that capture performance-related conversations you’ve had with your manager. What did you learn from your boss? How was your communication with him/her? What did you respond to about your boss’s leadership? What felt lacking to you? How has your boss impacted your professional skills, awareness, trajectory?
Consider this relationship, similar to the educators who had a hand in shaping your academic career. It’s important to know what works for you and what you’re looking for in a leader. Leadership matters. If you’ve reported to a difficult leader-a bully boss, an absentee manager, or a leader who simply wasn’t well-suited for a management role, you know how much of a drain it can be on your day-to-day. Conversely, if you had an outstanding manager, who helped you grow and evolve professionally, you know how much it can enhance your experience and bolster your skills, perspective and plans.
List and note what you’re targeting in future leaders based on your experience. Create a composite of what kind of leader you think you best respond to-for example: I respond to hand-on managers who give their team support but also the autonomy to own their projects. I want a manager who helps me evolve my trajectory, but who won’t micromanage me.
Just as employers have their posts which detail what they are looking for, create a bulleted list of what you’re seeking in your next boss.
Reflect on Your Contributions
Clearly, you don’t want to sit in a job interview and complain about your previous management team, but it’s meaningful to say: here’s what I learned about my values, preferences, and plans. Self-awareness and preparation bode well for candidates, and the team interviewing you is likely to notice.
Doing this preparation is important for you too-taking on a new job is a big life change. Set yourself up for success by preparing reliable criteria for evaluating one of the key components of fit.
John Ryan, Regional Vice President and Managing Director of executive search firm TRANSEARCH International agrees that doing this analysis is important. Ryan explains: “When I meet job seekers for the first time, I lead them through a discussion of their wants and needs in a manager, team, and corporate culture.”
Having the clarity to reflect on your past and use that to prepare for your future is an important strategy. Ryan points out: “I generally find that candidates who have taken time to list out what they are looking for in a manager tend to ask better questions, and tend to do a better job of assessing their fit into his/her team.”
Job interviews go both ways. You’re not just selling, you’re buying. Make prospective employers pitch to you. You have a lot at stake in this deal. Their answers to your questions are just as important as your answers to theirs.