Common Career Myth - Find a Career Doing What You Are Good At

You have probably been told to find a career doing what you are good at.   This can be dangerous advice. 

What’s clear is that people’s talents and abilities aren’t always the same as their passions. This fact emerged early in my career as a consultant.  As a junior member of the firm I was asked to support some key partners who were regularly presenting to current and prospective clients.  Much of my time was spent creating and adjusting presentation materials, and as a result becoming proficient in the Microsoft Suite of products (PowerPoint, Excel and Word).  In my first anniversary performance review I received feedback that the Partners were happy with my performance and contribution, and planned to have me continue to develop in the role of presentation developer.  The problem was, I did not enjoy the role – I was good at it, but I was dreading Monday mornings.  Over time, being pigeon-holed as a Development Lead was a big reason I left the firm.

Finding a job and career that you are good at is behind most career counseling. The simple idea is that if you do work that you are good at you will find greater prosperity 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. Other factors such as a person’s interests are rarely considered. It is simply a given that we are to subvert your interests to 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 success – your passions.

Yet, fueling every employee and leader that has driven transformation is a commitment to doing what they love. 

Michael Dell, the Founder of Dell Computer, is a typical story.  He was fascinated with computers and was passionate about building a technology company.  His parents wanted Michael to do the “sensible thing,” complete medical school and be a physician.  It is not atypical for a child and parents to disagree on a career choice.  What is atypical about Michael is his commitment to live his life and passion at an early age, regardless of the resistance and doubts of others.

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” they had spent years in less fulfilling careers doing what they were “good” at.  

Finding your career success and fulfillment often begins with stopping the grind (doing things we are good at but don’t enjoy) and embracing the work we truly enjoy.

Truth – Find a career doing what you love