20. As a Job Seeker Look for Your Tribe

If you’re having a tough time with your job search, I guarantee it’s because you’re trying to fit yourself into companies where you don’t belong. 

The advice I give most often to jobseekers: “Search for your tribe!

Years ago, my wife was working for a printing company. A colleague was describing a party he had attended during the weekend. The people in attendance didn’t feel right, thus he didn’t stay long. He then said, “I always go where I’m celebrated, not merely tolerated.” What a great mindset to have!

I believe much of our mental anguish, frustrations, unhappiness, and failures stem from trying to “fit in.”

We’re desperate to hear:

  • “We want you.”
  • “Please join us.”
  • “We like you.”
  • “You’re who we need.”
  • “We love you.” (the ultimate heart-tugger

Seeking employers who’ll most likely accept you, where you’ll feel you belong, will expedite your job search; you may even hear the above-mentioned words.

Making finding where you belong a priority is the best compass a job seeker can use. Don’t look for a job. Instead, look for where you’ll be accepted. Think: “I’m not looking for a job; I’m looking for my tribe!”

Envision you’re joining a group that makes you feel you’re one of them (e.g., community theatre, professional organization, church, car club, soccer team). Being part of a group of people who share your values and interests, who welcome you into their circle, who when they say “we” mean you also is a good feeling.

Joining a company is the equivalent of joining a group.

Work takes up a significant chunk of your time. It makes sense to ensure your workplace embraces your individualism, age, gender, values, and beliefs—that it’s a place where you can be yourself rather than always trying to belong.

From personal experience, the extra mental load of trying to “fit in” created stressors resulting in anxiousness when arriving at work, coming home frustrated and angry, and having trouble sleeping. Sound familiar? It wasn’t the job, but the atmosphere and conditions I was trying to mold myself into that were causing these mental torments. During my working hours, my internal dialogue revolved around trying to convince myself that my experience was typical of all employees. After all, I wasn’t at work to have fun—I was there to work.

Eventually, I started to realize my approach wasn’t working for me. So, I asked myself: What do I want to be accepted for? (age, gender, affiliations, values, beliefs, skills). Answering this question required soul searching. 

If you’re more comfortable working for a female boss, so be it. If you want to be surrounded by Millennials because you feed off their energy, so be it. Who has the right to judge you if you get along better with people who are politically conservative? Are you more at ease dealing with people of your cultural background—who isn’t?

The difference between feeling like you’re the only freak show at the circus versus feeling like you’re sitting right at the heartbeat of where you’re meant to be is the people you surround yourself with.

There’s an enormous benefit that comes with searching for workplaces where you won’t need to constantly spend your energy trying to fit in; you’re job-hunting with a purpose beyond simply trying to secure a steady paycheck. 

Being a fit is at the core of every hiring process. When you get to the formal interview stage, it’s because you have the qualifications to do the job; otherwise, you wouldn’t be interviewed. The hiring manager is interviewing you to gauge if you’ll be a fit. Since being a fit, is a 2-way street, use the discussion to gauge if you’re a fit. At the end of the day, only you know you and what works for you.

Finding your tribe boils down to being honest with yourself about the kind of people, conversations, connections, and social interactions that feed your soul and, therefore, where you’ll do your best work.

On a parting note, not being a fit, either early in your employment or down the road, is the number one reason employees are fired. Don’t underestimate the correlation between being a fit and your employment longevity.