Louis Business Journal
The right job: What you do well, but also what you like
By Anna Navarro
1997 - Career success doesn't always translate
into career happiness. That was the case with Jim, a 33-year-old,
health-care attorney with three kids and a full-time homemaker
spouse. He was a partner in his law firm, and had a thriving
But he was miserable.
successful, Jim disliked his work and felt trapped in his
job. He considered changing careers, but the only options
he could think of involved additional training and it seemed
impossible to do that and still earn a living for his growing
I knew how Jim felt. I too was
once successful in a career that didn't suit me. In the beginning
of my professional life, I found a career that emphasized
statistics and number crunching and became a political pollster.
What I didn't get to use in that job was my ability to help
other people grow and develop.
While I was good at what I did,
it wasn't good for me.
Through some twists and turns and
years of refining this process, I found a career that works
for me. At Work Transitions, I have worked with thousands
of people ranging from top executives who became entrepreneurs
to a mildly retarded man who became a stock clerk, helping
them identify their skills as the first step toward making
a career change.
Jim was one of my clients, and
with his permission, I'll share his experience. When Jim listed
the satisfying experiences in his life, they included selling
the most magazines of anyone in his Boy Scout troop; making
a game of talking his parents into letting him stay up late
as a child; convincing the Jesuits who ran his all-male college
to allow girls to visit on Sunday evenings; and fund raising
for his civic club.
A strong underlying theme in Jim's
peak experiences was sales. Today he is more successful as
a salesman of highly specialized technical equipment to hospitals
and clinics than he was as a health care lawyer. He's much
happier and has been able to build on his already acquired
knowledge of health care.
Jim didn't realize he had a talent
for sales. When I ask my clients to think of their skills,
they usually list acquired skills, such as knowledge of medicine
or accounting. What they don't think of are natural abilities
- innate skills that I call knacks.
Some of these are gifts from the
universe such as mathematical expertise, mechanical skills
or musical talents. Others are personality traits such as
being friendly and outgoing. Still others are habits like
being neat and organized.
A SKILL IS ANYTHING AN EMPLOYER
OR CUSTOMER WILL PAY FOR. That can include some surprising
things. For example, would you guess that the ability to sense
beauty and a knack for trading favors are both essential career
skills? One is essential to interior design, the other to
lobbying, politics and many top-level management posts.
I have found that most of us take
for granted what comes easily to us. We tend to discount the
very skills we ought to build our careers around. That was
the mistake I made when I was spending more time with statistics
than with people.
Many of us have been socialized
to shrug off compliments. As a result of this, and our tendency
to discount what comes naturally, we often develop a blind
spot about what we are innately good at doing.
The opposite also is true. Sometimes
we're so good at one talent, we build our careers around that
to the exclusion of other things we enjoy more.
One of my clients is a math whiz,
so she became an actuary. Now she's bored on the job because
she misses being with people. She's not using her leadership
and management skills. If you spend time doing what you do
well but you don't like, then you're not where you belong.
You ought to be using your skills in proportion to your enjoyment.
So my client, the actuary, should be in a position where 70
percent of her time is spent with people and 30 percent with
The ideal career situation is developed
through an analysis of what you naturally do well and what
you like doing.
is the founder of Work Transitions, a nationwide career consulting
firm that trains independent career strategists and consults
with individual clients.
was originally published by the St. Louis Business Journal.
The actual title of the column and date in which it appeared
in the Business Journal may be slightly different from what
appears on WorkTransitions.com.