Choosing a Career Based on Natural Talents
One way to choose a career is to simply go with whatever is available at the time. That might work for some people. For most of us it will not or just be OK and just OK should not be good enough. This approach can even lead to total misery especially if you are also averse to change. A better way is to be more deliberate about it from the beginning. There are a great number of factors you can consider. Some of them may be more important to you than others. Others may not matter at all.
Career Choice Factors
Some factors can change over time. There are two that never change, so if job happiness is really important to you, it pays to pay attention to them. We could call them cornerstones. They are:
1. Innate abilities
Innate abilities are abilities that are special for you. Cheetahs are known for their ability to run really fast. Humans are usually more multi-talented, but may have one or two things they do extraordinarily well. It is natural for them. These natural talents come in two flavors:
The other important factor to pay extra attention to is your personality. For most of us, our personality is fully formed at the age of about three. After that, it does not change much. We will talk about personality as a career choice factor another day. Some other factors to consider are:
Knowing your innate abilities is key to choosing a satisfying and fulfilling career. If what you do is difficult or unpleasant, you will burn out too soon.
In contrast to natural talents, acquired skills are things you have learned. They can change over time. Natural abilities do not normally change over your lifetime. At the beginning of your journey, try to separate natural talent from acquired skills. Later on, when you have determined your natural talents, combine it with mastery. Become and expert in that field.
What Is More Important to You?
It is also possible to be good at something, but have little interest in it. The opposite, of course, may also be true. You can be interested in something but have no talent for it. What you want to look for is both.
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Discovering Your Natural Talents
For some of us, it is pretty obvious what our natural talents are. For the rest of us, it will take some effort to figure it out. One difficulty we run into is that we have never actually tried to do everything. The opposite is easier to figure out. Try to do something you are terrible at. No doubt, someone will tell you that you are terrible at it. That will hurt, so you are more likely to remember that this is not one of your natural talents so you can avoid it when choosing a career.
Natural talents tend to come in a very narrow range and positive feedback is harder to come by than negative. One difficulty trying to identify them is that it is so normal or mundane to you that you do not even notice that you have an extraordinary gift. Others, who may struggle with what seems so easy for you, may marvel at your ability and you will miss the obvious and therefore neglect to make it a component in your perfect career.
If you are having difficulty figuring out what your natural talents are, it might help to go back to your childhood. Try to remember what you did when nobody told you what to did. Your talents then are likely to be the same talents you have now. Going back to your childhood will also help reduce the possibility that the result of your inquiry gets tainted by acquired skills and interests you have developed later in life.
Friends and Family Clues
Another way is to ask your friends or family what they think you are good at. If you are not a very social person or find it awkward to do so, an alternative is to keep your eyes and ears open to what they say about you.
Clues Inside You
Most of us have an inner dialog going on in our head all day long. It is likely to be more or less the same one day in and day out. Pay attention for a few days. Listen for clues. Also listen to actual conversations you have with people. Pay attention to when it becomes interesting and when you tune out. That could be valuable clues.
If all this fails to give you an answer, you can always resort to aptitude tests. If you are multi-talented, you might want to make this your first choice. Some are inexpensive or even free, but consider the consequences of getting this wrong. In this context, what's a few hundred bucks? We are talking about the rest of your life here, aren't we?
Selecting a Career
Figuring out what your natural talents are, however, is only the first step on the ladder. You also have to figure out a way to translate that into an actually paycheck, to make it part of your job. After, all, you cannot simply search for "running" or "analytical" and expect to get a list of jobs where running and analysis are core elements. All you know so far is that certain abilities you have should be a major component of your new job. It should come as no surprise to you that there is no instant gratification. Getting this right is hard and rigorous work. Go through the pain and the rewards for choosing a career where you will do what you do well at least some of the time are great.
Start with the abilities that most directly translate into an actual job. If you can, the work is basically done. Chances are that it is not that easy. More work is necessary. Do not worry if it does not happen right away, but do set that as a goal. The best and most reliable information comes from people who already work in a particular field. Do not be afraid to approach leaders in that industry. If they are passionate about what they do, they will be very happy to talk to you about it. It is not a bother at all.
In the meantime, hone those skills and tell everyone what kind of jobs you are interested in.
Commit to Getting it Right
All this sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? You would be right. It is but really, isn't considering how important this is for your wellbeing. You do that with everything else that is important to you like the new stereo, the new car or the vacation you are going on next summer.
Nowadays, some people change jobs every few years. It is normal, but every move should be one step closer to your dream job. Don't fall into the trap of wanting to get this over with quickly. Take your time and be thorough even if the process takes years. It is a journey and you may have to make some course directions along the way.