Selecting a job or career can be a difficult decision. Numerous factors such as personal interests, job availability, wages, hours, and benefits are all common considerations. Numerous quizzes have been developed to try to match someone to a specific job or career. My experience is that they typically lack one important thing: what are the physical demands of the job.
Not everyone is created with equal strength, stature, or endurance. Very few people are fit to be an NFL running back. The strength, speed, and agility demands of this job are very great. Many people would be injured within a few plays of getting hit by a 230-pound middle linebacker at full speed. At the NFL combine, professional football player hopefuls go through rigorous testing and training, to see if they will meet the demands of the job. If a player does not have the strength or speed needed to perform well in the NFL, coaches and managers are hesitant to “hire” these candidates.
Understand the Job Demands
Every job has some level of physical demands required to successfully perform the job. For safety and health purposes, it is important that each employee candidate can successfully handle the demands of the job. Matching worker to the work is a great way to help ensure that both the employee and employer are happy with the results. Very few jobs are as rigorous as an NFL running back, but there are some jobs that do require moderate to heavy lifting. How do you know how strenuous a job will be? Functional job descriptions that include the frequency of tasks (5%, 25%, 50% of day, etc), the amount of weight associated with the tasks (5lbs, 25lbs, 50lbs), and most common position (sitting, standing, walking) can help determine if the job is right for you.
For example, a job that requires lifting 50lbs two to three times per day is much different than a job that requires lifting 50lbs 100 times per hour. A job that requires frequent sitting with occasional standing and walking is much different than a job that requires continuous standing and stair climbing. Having an idea of the job and job tasks can help you better understand what will be expected on the job.
Know Your Own Capabilities
So first, understanding the job demands is very important in determining if it is a good fit for you. The other side of the coin is understanding your own capabilities. If your grip strength is only 40lbs in your dominant hand, having a job that requires carrying a 50lbs toolbox will likely be very difficult to impossible to perform. If you have difficulty picking up a gallon of milk off the floor, a job that requires lifting 25-50lbs boxes from the floor may not be safe. Previous injuries or the general aging process can influence both strength and flexibility required to perform certain tasks.
One of the best ways for employers to fairly assess if an employee will be fit for a job is through a pre-work screen based on functional tasks required by the job. Simulated job tasks can help identify if there are any deficits in function that would make someone unsafe or unfit for a specific job.
Employers get employees that are fit for the job and less likely to get hurt. This leads to decreased costs related to injuries and can help reduce turnover1. Employees get a job that is within their functional abilities and is likely to be a more rewarding job. Before you take on a new job, be sure to double check to make sure you are functionally a good fit for the job.
Secrets to Selecting a Job for Life
1. Nassau DW. The effects of prework functional screening on lowering an employer’s injury rate, medical costs, and lost work days. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1999 Feb 1;24(3):269-74.