One of the most pervasive and toxic myths is “Find a career doing what you are good at.” I am sure you have been given this advice, and perhaps you have given this advice. In fact, this “do what you are good at” myth sets the premise for almost all traditional career counseling and decision making. The simple idea is that if you do work that you are good at you will find greater prosperity and stability in your career.
Based on this, schools and companies administer standard aptitude tests, report cards and various evaluation processes focused on driving awareness and alignment with your measured strengths. And, when making career and promotional decisions, the level, function and role that a person is placed in is based upon how others in the organization assess their capabilities. Other factors such as a person’s interests are rarely considered. It is simply a given that we are to organize our passions and perspectives and lives around the needs of the organization.
To be clear, it is always a good idea to be aware of your areas of strength and weaknesses. However, when your areas of perceived aptitude are the primary reason for choosing and following a career direction, you run the risk of not taping into the real source of career wealth – your passions.
In reality, techniques for evaluating your capabilities are faulty and often inaccurate. Time and again we know people who have been told not to pursue a career direction because they weren’t smart enough or “inclined” in a certain area. Years later they regained the confidence and awareness that they did have the capability. Unfortunately, by the time they stopped listening to “experts” and their measures, they had spent years in less fulfilling careers doing what they were “good” at.
What’s clear is that people’s talents and abilities aren’t always the same as their passions. As authors we have regularly received feedback that we are good at writing, managing, developing presentations, and leading conferences. In fact we have constantly been given this kind of work because we are good at it, but we are not passionate about this work. Finding our own career wealth and fulfillment began with stopping the grind (doing things we were talented in but hated) and embracing the work we loved to do.
As part of the engagement focus, many companies are seeing that tapping into the passion, not necessarily the overt strengths, of people will spark higher levels of sustained effort and results. I believe in the coming years will bring an emerging awareness of the need for passion in the workplace.
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What They're Saying
The authors have a wonderful message: Stop looking for those greener pastures; they may be astroturf! Look insider first. A very important message for the impending talent war.
Beverly L. Kaye
CEO/Founder, Career Systems International; author, Love It Don't Leave It, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em, and Up Is Not the Only Way.