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What is “Fit” and Why Does it Matter?

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch February 24, 2020

Post written by guest blogger Charlesice Hawkins, Detailee within OITE.

The importance of a good fit comes from the goal of achieving synergy. The first major principle of fit is that the sum is greater than its parts i.e. fit between two entities is more indicative of success than either entity on its own. The second principle refers to the benefit of compatibility of attributes vs the level of the attributes and the third principle addresses misfit. In a straightforward example, someone may be a high-level cognitive science graduate student, but that may not be as helpful in teaching a microbiology course (principle 2). That is not to say that a cognitive scientist can’t learn and teach microbiology. In fact, they would bring a new perspective and novel strategies, but they may be happier teaching something more closely related to their interests (principle 1). Maybe they wanted to try something different and didn’t like it or in a more difficult scenario, maybe they were hired to teach a cognitive neuroscience course, but it was switched to microbiology at the last minute (principle 3).

Discrepancies in expectations are the root of many conflicts, so the easiest solution is to recognize the importance of fit and communicate priorities and possibilities early on. Some of the types of fit to consider in respect to careers specifically are:

• Person-organization fit

Do the values of the organization fit with your own beliefs?

• Person-environment fit
Will you be able to work with members of your team effectively and peacefully?

• Person-team fit
Is the work environment going to be conducive to your success?

Person-supervisor fit
Does your supervisor know and respect your priorities?

It is also worth noting that fit can change. Graduate and post-doc positions can often coincide with major life events. If a postdoctoral fellow has a child, for example, they may need approval of certain accommodations for work (Person-supervisor fit). In the case that there is a good alignment or, at the very least, an understanding of the shift in priorities, the lab members will be cooperative and may reorganize the equipment schedule and/or implement a new communication system such as a group chat or shared calendar (Person-team fit). In a harmonious environment, the post-doc will not be chastised for having to leave early or make a change (Person-environment fit). If any case of misfit goes unaddressed, newly developed or not, unhealthy resentment can build up on both sides.

Thinking about all the different levels of fit can be overwhelming, but it is beneficial to reflect on one’s priorities including what types of fit matter the most to them. Self-assessment and transparent communication can solve the problem of misfit, but identifying and acknowledging that there is a problem is one of the hardest steps.


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