Assessing professional fit



Assessing fit between you and a career in the family business

When you are deciding whether to join the family business, it is important to use a thorough, analytical process. Your primary objective is to evaluate whether there is a good fit between you and a career in your family business. Here is a framework to help you assess the fit, in three respects.

© Cambridge Family Enterprise Group 2022

This article focuses on assessing professional fit, which answers the question: Will a full-time career in my family business be a good fit for my professional goals, priorities, capabilities, and interests?

To develop an informed answer to this question, you will want to explore two aspects:

  1. Yourself: What are your professional goals, priorities, capabilities, and interests?
  2. Your family business (as your future employer): How well-suited is the company, as an organization, to help you thrive professionally?

Understanding yourself

To begin, it is important to develop a clear picture of what you want and need professionally and what value you can contribute to the business. This will help you understand the conditions you need to perform and feel fulfilled at work. This might appear like a self-centered pursuit, but the truth is that a good fit between you and the company is important for all involved.

Take time to reflect on each of the 4 dimensions below and write down your answers.

  • My Professional Goals
    • What are my goals in my professional life? What do I want to achieve through my career?
    • What specifically do I hope to accomplish in the family business? What do I hope to achieve from joining the family business that I might not be able to achieve (as easily, or at all) in another company?
  • My Professional Priorities
    • What do I value in my professional work? For example, how much do I value… Intellectual stimulation? Personal growth? Autonomy? Work/life balance? Status? Power and influence? Financial rewards? Mission-driven or values-based work? Helping others?
    • In what kind of work environment do I thrive? For example: Results-driven or Process-driven? Hierarchical or collaborative? Team oriented or individual? Remote, in-person, or traveling? A fixed or flexible schedule?
  • My Professional Capabilities
    • What business-related skills do I have? What unique capabilities do I bring? Where do I have professional credibility?
    • What is my reputation in my family and in the company? Am I seen as a respected contributor and a unifier?
    • How is my previous work experience relevant to my family business? Have I worked for at least 3-5 years outside of the family business (which is a broadly recommended best practice for family employees)?
  • My Professional Interests
    • What kind of business-related activities and functions do I enjoy? Sales? Operations? Financial or market analysis? Creative, team projects? Managing the work of others? Strategic planning?
    • What skills and experience am I interested in developing? What are my values?

Now that you have a clear picture of yourself as a professional—where you are now and where you hope to go—you can compare how well your goals, priorities, capabilities, and interests align with the opportunities and environment of your family business.

Understanding the family business as your future employer

For you to perform and feel fulfilled at work, the company should be an organization that you are proud of and excited to be a part of due to its mission, values, culture, and the value it delivers. It should be sustainable so it’s a good long-term bet for your career. There should be opportunities for advancement. All too often, family members overlook this kind of analysis when it comes to their family company, mainly because they have “grown up in the business” and assume they know everything they need to know about it.

Take time to collect and write down the data below about your family business. Be prepared to adjust your assumptions and expectations according to the facts you learn.

  • Company performance and organization
    • How attractive is the industry (or industries) the family company competes in or invests in? Is the industry being threatened by technological disruption or other forces, and is the company well positioned for this?
    • How is the company performing in its industry (or industries)? Is the company’s business model well suited for the future? What do I think about the strategic direction of the company and its position in the industry?
    • Is the company’s organization structure well suited for the future? How well is management operating the business? How well are strategic, board-level decisions being handled?
  • Company mission, values, and culture
    • What are the company’s mission (purpose) and vision for the future?
    • Do I feel comfortable with the values of the company?
    • What is the company’s culture? What is it like to work there? Would it excite me?
  • Career paths and talent development in the family business today.
    • What career paths are currently available to family members? What skills, experience and qualifications are needed to perform well in these roles?
    • How, and how often, are family employees’ performance evaluated?
    • Is there a pool of younger talent ready to take higher responsibilities? Is talent development in the company given enough attention?
  • Family employment policies (formal or informal)
    • Some family companies welcome qualified and interested family members into roles within the business. Others strategically limit family employees to senior management or board roles. What approach does my family take?
    • Some family companies have specific policies about family hiring and qualifications. What does my family company have, whether formally written or informally understood?
    • Who is involved in the hiring process of a family member? Who makes the final decision about the hire?

With this clear picture of your family business as a potential future employer, compare it to your professional goals, priorities, capabilities, and interests (identified above). How well-suited is the company, as an organization, to help you thrive professionally? Will it be a good fit professionally?



In order to understand how well a career in the family business will fit with your professional aspirations, consider the following questions:

What are my professional goals, priorities, capabilities, and interests?

How well-suited is the company, as an organization, to help me thrive professionally?