A friend asked me this afternoon if I could help her boyfriend find a new direction. He had been successful in one industry for his entire working life, and after suffering a recent setback, he realized that his heart just wasn’t in it anymore.
He wanted to make a fresh start in a new career path – but he didn’t know where to begin. Being over forty, he hadn’t had to evaluate his professional interests or aptitudes in years.
Because I am the editor of Workopolis, people often assume I will have the answers to their career dilemmas off the top of my head. (I almost never do, but I hate to let them down.) I started to mention some valuable self-assessment tools that know of, but then I remembered a brilliant Venn diagram I had seen online years before. (I wish I could remember its original source, I would credit the creator and link to it, but it was so long ago.)
I sketched it out for her on a large piece of paper. With three circles, you can find where what you like to do overlaps with what you’re good at and what others will pay you to do.
If you’re good at doing something, and someone will pay you to do it, but you don’t like the work – then that’s a job that won’t enjoy going to everyday. It is very difficult to succeed at something you don’t like doing, so you’d be setting yourself up for an unsuccessful, unhappy life by pursuing a career you don’t enjoy. And that seems to be the situation that my friend’s boyfriend found himself in now, midcareer.
If you really like to do something, and you’re good at it, but no one will pay you to do it, then that’s really more of a hobby. (Writing poetry, embroidery, bird watching, historical reenactments.) Or you could devote your life to serving that small niche market that there might be for these things, being happy following your passion, using your talent, but knowing that there’s not a lot of money it.
If you’d like to do it, and people will pay someone to do it – but you don’t have the skills, then that’s more of a dream. (Astronaut, rock star, athlete.) Or you could take it as a challenge and go out and acquire those skills that are coming between you and the job you’d love to have.
In the meantime however, the secret to success is finding the overlap, where the things you like to do and are good at meet with a market demand.
I said something similar in my article, The Only Career Advice I Would Offer My Son: Find something you like to do, work hard at becoming really good at it, and be as nice as possible to everyone you meet along the way.
But this Venn diagram makes the formula for a successful, enjoyable career really easy to understand at a glance. Try writing down your likes, talents, and potential jobs in the circles and see what falls in the centre for you.
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