Career pundits encourage us, exhort us even, to aim for professional activities in which we excel or feel passionate about. But for some of us that simply isn’t possible. Oftentimes career blips can work to our advantage.
Sometimes, it’s just a case of not having the skills to identify what we are good at, or feel passionate about. In other cases our passions, skills and interests change and develop over time and are not fixed. Sometimes, we just need to do something, anything, to put a roof over our heads and 3 squares on the table.
In High School I was “good” at English, History and Geography, but for different reasons went on to study Economics, which in terms of academic results, was my weaker subject. This was not considered to be my smartest move by my teachers. I was passionate about tennis, but this enthusiasm was best employed as a spectator, rather than on the court. I grew up believing I was bad at maths, yet found myself recently in an MBA workshop, as the only person there who could explain the root of Pythagoras’ Theorem.
There are times when we don’t want to focus on the areas in which we excel and want to explore new territory. We come to terms with the fact that our passions are best kept as non-revenue generating past times. We have misconceptions about our own abilities. Or lack confidence.
Skills, both hard and soft, which we put on the back burner in the early stages in our careers, we resurrect, or even discover for the first time in later years. Other latent talents develop over time and others become redundant. I once considered myself to be pretty hot-headed, I am now frequently an oasis of calm, when others are getting bent out of shape.
Nothing is set in stone
The reality is that we all have many choices and nothing is set in stone. The real skill is being able to navigate these changes with flexibility and resilience and adapt in true Darwinian style to different circumstances. Unfortunately, we have all been culturally conditioned to expect a vertical career progression (maybe even vertical lives), in constant upward motion and mobility.
But those days are perhaps over.
Individuals who desperately want to pursue one career or life track, but for whatever reason, simply have no activity in which they excel, or feel passionate about, end up apologising for what is today culturally perceived to be an unfortunate blip. But today, in a tougher job market these blips are going to be the new norm. We can’t all get what we want as the song goes.
But that shouldn’t imply failure.
It’s not the end of the world if we don’t get into the college of our choice or even into college at all.
- We have all been in jobs that have not been ideal, but out of economic necessity have been forced to stick at them. We can look around for others or seek another focus for our energy.
- Life doesn’t end with a missed promotion or lost job. There are other places to work. Other things to do.
Hiring by numbers
It is perhaps part of today’s culture to view this sort of flexibility and adaptability as wishy-washy, uncommitted or uninspiring. I see it simply as a new pragmatism, an ability to adapt to uncertain economic times. This approach deserves the same respect from hiring practitioners, as committment to a lifelong career in a given profession, sector or even company.
This new need to ” do what we can” makes life challenging for recruiting and hiring managers, who will have tougher jobs identifying these intangible skills, as their hiring goal posts constantly change. There will be fewer candidates exhibiting the hallmarks of the traditional, predictable, career trajectory. They will need to move out of recruiting by numbers and probe more deeply. Many, sadly, are not equipped to do this effectively and may need new training themselves.
We are all the sum of many parts and instead of having to explain that with an apology, we should not just be acknowledging that fact, but celebrating it.