Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues -- everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.


A reader writes:

How can I stop myself from focusing on the aspects of a job I know I won't be good at?

The organization has contacted me for an interview, which means they think I'm qualified. But I'm scared they're going to smell my fear -- fear that they're interviewing someone for a public-facing position who really would prefer hiding in a back room and being behind the scenes.

There are many detail-oriented parts of the job that I know I'd be good at, like proofreading documents, doing social media, and putting together promotional materials like flyers and newsletters. It's just the reception and customer service part that I'm scared of. I wouldn't really say I'm a people person. I'm pretty introverted, and though no one would say I'm unfriendly or sour, I'm afraid I'm just not a front desk personality. I also become short-circuited if too many things are going on at once -- I prefer to work at my own pace.

I keep trying to tell myself that I would probably be okay with these aspects of the job once I'm trained and I've gotten used to those duties, but then I tell myself, "No! You'd suck at it!"

Does it sound like I really shouldn't be trying to do this type of work considering my temperament? But there is no perfect job, and this has a good salary range and is in a library, and I have a library background. I feel like I can't afford to sabotage myself.

I can't give you a definitive answer from here, but here are some thoughts on how to figure it out for yourself.

First, much of this comes down to being brutally honest with yourself about what it would be like to be in that job. Plenty of people who aren't "people persons" ("people people"?) do perfectly well in front-desk positions, while  other people find it torture. If it's something that wouldn't be your first choice but that you could handle just fine, that's one thing; if you're going to be miserable and frazzled, that's another. You've got to be brutally honest with yourself about where you're likely to fall on that spectrum.

Second, receptionists do get interrupted all the time throughout the day, and they don't always get to work at their own pace (calls need to be answered now, Apollo from Accounting needs that invoice immediately, and a vendor just walked in and needs to be dealt with). If you know that you don't do well in those situations, this might not be the right fit for you.

Third, and most important: It's okay to conclude a job isn't right for you. It's far better to figure that out now than to end up in a job you hate or struggle in. Don't pressure yourself into wanting a job that you'd ultimately be ill-suited for just because it meets some of the items on your list, (like being in your field or having a good salary). I'm not saying that this job isn't right for you -- just that you shouldn't talk yourself out of that possibility if there are core pieces that don't feel right to you. Of course, that advice changes if you're in a situation where you don't have the luxury of turning down work or waiting longer to find a job -- but even in those cases, you'd want to go into it with your eyes open about possible outcomes.

All this said, though, since you're not yet sure where you stand on this, realize that you don't have to make a decision right now. Do the interview and learn more about the job and what they're looking for. Use it partly as a fact-finding mission about whether this job is likely to be right for you. That's how you should be treating all interviews anyway, even ones that you're sure are the right fit -- because often when you pay attention, you'll discover that what looked like the right fit in the job ad isn't actually the right fit in reality.

In other words, explore whether this job is right for you just like the employer is exploring whether you're right for the job. They're not making up their mind about you yet, and you don't need to make up your mind about them yet either.

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.