Wisdom//

Why People Specialize in What They’re Worst At

We doubt our skills because we think careers are rigid, but they’re not.

Courtesy of Shutter_M / Shutterstock
Courtesy of Shutter_M / Shutterstock

When I was in high school, I was convinced I wanted to be a lawyer. I studied law at university to fulfil my high school ambition.

After two years of studying law, I had doubts about my career path because I spent more time learning philosophy and psychology. I enjoyed writing notes about what I was learning on the side more than listening to lectures about company law.

Today, I spend most of my working time reading and writing about the nature of knowledge, existence, the meaning of life, and the scientific study of the human mind and how it affects behaviour. And I deeply enjoy the process.

Most people are naturally good at one thing, but they often undervalue that skill and choose to perfect something they’re worse at. They take their skill for granted. They play down things they’re good at by saying, “it’s nothing.”

According to a recent study, we’re more inclined to try to improve where we’re weak. People don’t appreciate what they have — instead, they look at what they don’t have. They focus too much on what they’re worst at, and they even make a career out of it.

Often, we aren’t satisfied with just doing what comes easy to us — we tend to want more. It’s OK to want this. It pays to have a few different skill sets in a changing world. But don’t forget what you already have that can make everything better. What comes easy to you could be complicated for others, or it could even difficult for others to master.

Your life will be so much easier if you take more time to look at what you already have and how to make one of those skills into a career.

More often than not, society tells us a lot of things about what we should want in a career and what the possibilities are. We’re driven to make choices that command social respect at the expense of our selves.

“We want to be respected by those we aspire to connect with, we want to know what we ought to do to be part of that circle,” says Seth Godin.

We tend to make major career decisions based on what is expected of us rather than what will bring out the best in us. People spend years perfecting skills that don’t make them happy. In the end, they end up at jobs they hate just to fit in. They become miserable, even though the rest of us think they are “successful.”

Choose a Career Path That Reflects Who You Are

According to career change statistics, the average person will change careers seven times during their working life. If you’re going to change careers seven times in your life, you might as well focus on what engages you and makes you come alive. You’re less likely to get bored if you find a natural fit.

You’re the most qualified at figuring out what’s best for you. If you’re skilled at something you don’t really want to do it for the rest of your life, it’s not too late. Fortunately, you can easily improve what comes naturally to you.

Take a “career clarity break,” and look down at the path you’re on and where it’s going. Make sure it will still make sense to you in the next ten years.

Think about your personality and focus on the skills you have that excite and energize you. Reflect on who you are now and what you expect for yourself. Self-awareness can help you figure out who you really are and what you want from life.

If you want more clues to help you find the right skills and career paths, think about what you’re consistently drawn to, even if you don’t know why. What fully engages you when you’re doing it?

If you can’t think of how to pivot your career based on your core competencies, ask the people you work with for feedback.

If you’ve specialised in something that doesn’t necessarily bring out the best in you but you can’t give it up because you’re too far in, another option is to develop related skills.

Use the multiple skills approach to build a better career. Think “what could I become good at” if “what am I good at” narrows down your options too much.

For example, if you’re a developer, you could learn project management skills. This way, you’ll be able to take on more projects in the future or lead a team of developers to handle big projects.

If you choose this path, consider your long-term goals. What skills will you need to get the job you want to have five years from now?

A career path is a work in progress — not a single tunnel. It’s one of those really, really important things you want to get right, even if you feel like you’ve peaked and can’t change.

“When you think of your career as a tunnel, you lose the courage to make a career switch, even when your soul is begging for it. It makes switching careers feel incredibly risky and embarrassing, and it suggests that someone who does so is a failure,” says Tim Urban.

Whether you are well into your career or still at the beginning, take time to understand yourself. Make sure what you do for a living is also fulfiling because it has a significant impact on everything in your life.

Working takes up a large percentage of our lives. It pays to specialise in something that can stand the test of time, but that still means a lot to you and makes you come alive.

Various studies have shown that when we focus on improving what we are already good at, we grow faster, experience less stress, and are more engaged with our work.

Think about the impact your current income-generating skill has on your life and relationships. Is it a negative or positive influence on your non-career hours?

Over the course of your life, your good and bad career decisions will collaborate to forge your path. Make better choices today for a more rewarding, interesting life.

Closing Thoughts

Chances are, you already know what brings out the best you. If you’re ready to upgrade your career to reflect who you are, think about your long-term motive and why now’s the best time to do it.

A fulfiling career is about connecting the right dots. Look for dots in your past and start connecting them today to build the life you truly want.

Always remember that your career is a marathon, not a sprint.

Originally published on Medium.

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