One of the most important components of a successful career is finding jobs that suit you.
Having spent 17 years leading the iconic fashion brand Calvin Klein, Tom Murry knows firsthand the benefits of having a great fit – both in terms of the clothes you wear and the jobs you hold.
Under his leadership, Calvin Klein grew from a $2.8 billion company to a brand worth $8 billion. During his time with the company, Murry served as CEO, president and chief operating officer before retiring in 2014.
Prior to joining Calvin Klein, Murry spent much of his career working for other fashion brands, including Tahari and Evan Picone. But before all that, Murry worked on an oil rig in Louisiana. It was that job, he said, that instilled a grittiness that would serve him throughout his career at Calvin Klein.
We recently spoke with Murry about how you know if your job is the right fit for you and what to do if it isn't. In addition, we asked him some rapid-fire questions about technology, his career and advice he has received over the years.
Q: How do you know if the job you are in is the right fit for you?
A: One of the best indicators to know whether a job is right for you is your feelings about it. If you are genuinely excited about the work you're engaged in, then you're on the right track. If you find yourself curious and willing to learn as much as you can about your job and all that the work entails, you've found a good fit.
Another part of finding a good fit, of course, is competence. You tend to feel better about whatever work you're doing when you're good at it.
Q: Is finding the right career fit more than just being happy with what you do?
A: Absolutely. Feeling happy and enjoying what you do is great. It's a solid indicator. But don't get me wrong. It's not the only indicator. Not every day is going to be fun. Not every moment of work is going to make you happy. You'll set yourself up for disappointment and unrealistic expectations if you think you have to be "happy" every single moment of the workday.
I think a better measurement for finding the right career fit is curiosity and a willingness to be better. If you're engaged, curious, and open to learning as much as you can, you'll never be bored. You'll always be looking for ways to self-improve.
If you find yourself desiring to be better, desiring to want to learn as much as you can, desiring to excel in the workplace, then you've found the right fit. You know what you want and you're willing to work to get there, even if some of that work is hard work.
Q: If you are in a job that doesn't seem right for you, can you grow in the position to a point where it eventually is the right fit? If so, what steps should people take to grow and advance in their jobs?
A: I think anyone can learn to do a job. But the operative word is learn. You have to have a learner's mindset or what they now call a growth mindset when you approach any position.
No one knows every aspect of the job on day one. Experience is vital and often undervalued. Give yourself time to learn. Yes, you even have to make mistakes.
The first step you should take is to learn as much as you can. Ask questions. Don't pretend to know what you're doing to look competent. Instead, ask with a willingness to be better. Take peers out to lunch and find out what worked for them. Hire a mentor or a coach if you don't feel comfortable seeking counsel from coworkers. Then make a plan with your own manager and ask them what you can do to become more effective. Accept criticism and work with others to improve.
But the most important thing you can do is to have a good attitude. A positive, can-do attitude will really stand out. It shows a willingness on your part to be better.
Q: If you don't think you are in the right fit, what steps should you take to make a change?
A: If you have tried all of the above and you're still miserable at work, then you may have to take a good, long hard look at yourself. Analyze what's not working. Is it your attitude? Are you in over your head? Do you need more experience?
I am a firm believer in tenacity and hanging in there – to a point. If you've tried everything and it's still not working – and you're miserable – chances are your co-workers and boss are miserable too. That's when you know it's time to go.
Q: How long should you give yourself in a new job before deciding if it is the right fit for you? Do you need to give it time? Or will you know immediately?
A: There are a lot of steps to take before you throw in the towel. And time is relative. Some people have a quick learning curve. They can see the writing on the wall and plan their exit accordingly.
I think some people know immediately when it won't work. When I was young, I had a job where I knew I was in way over my head. I was totally unqualified, and I wasn't given any resources or support. My boss at the time said to me, "Tom, it's sink or swim!" And I said, "No, it's sink, swim, or swim away." I chose the latter. I knew if I stayed it would have been a disaster for me and the company. They needed someone with more experience. In that case, I seemed to know right away.
Q: If you like what you do but don't necessarily care for your co-workers and bosses, what is the best way to proceed?
A: I can't imagine a scenario where you like what you're doing but you don't like your boss or co-workers. Usually, they are a package deal and part of enjoying what you do.
Normally, when you enjoy your work, you enjoy the people you work with. It might be important to stop yourself and ask: Is it really the people I don't like? Or is it this job? Or is it my attitude toward the job that makes working with others so difficult? A good fit and good people go hand in hand.
Q: If you are a manager, how should you handle an employee who doesn't seem like they are happy with their fit in your company?
A: I would spend some time analyzing the situation. I would call them into my office and ask them to share their frustrations with me. So many people just need to be listened to. If they're a valued employee, I am going to try to make them feel heard, understood, and I would also try to work out a plan to help them feel more comfortable, competent or happy, whatever the case may be. But if someone was unhappy and incompetent, I would probably advise that they look elsewhere for work. There isn't much you can do with a negative and incompetent employee.
Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?
A: I can't live without my iPhone. I do everything on it.
Q: What is the best piece of career advice you've ever been given?
A: Someone said to me early on, though I can't for the life of me remember who it was, "Find something you enjoy doing." And nothing has been truer. When you enjoy what you do, you're more effective. It's that simple.
Q: What's the biggest mistake you've made?
A: When I was about 40 years old, I took a huge risk and bought the company Intuition. My business partner and I thought we could turn the apparel company around, but we didn't do enough due diligence, and it turned out to be a financial and professional disaster. It took me a long time to recover, and it was difficult to get back on my feet.
Q: What's the best book or blog you've read this year?
A: I read for pleasure and I always enjoy James Patterson's books. I recently read "All-American Murder" and look forward to reading his latest.
Q: What's the biggest risk you've taken professionally? Did it pay off?
A: I suppose some people may have seen leaving a solid job at Tahari as a risk. I was making a lot of money, working with people I liked and doing what I loved. But I saw it as an opportunity. Getting to work with Calvin Klein was the best thing I ever did. It paid in dividends. I spent the happiest years of my professional life at the helm of Calvin Klein.
Q: What's the one thing you want to accomplish this year?
A: To help as many people as I can find a great fit at work. Part of that goal is working on a book that is all about that.