Monday, June 13, 2011
If You Think You are Too Vanilla to Have a Calling... (Part 1)
A lot of my students say things like “I’m not sure what I want to do with my career. I just know I like working with people.” My follow-up question is always: “How do you like working with people? There are a million ways to do it. What is your way?”
My response is a little more diplomatic than the one my colorful ethics professor gave me when, at age 25, I went to his office to bemoan my lack of career direction. I fretted to him, “I don’t know what I want to do. All I know is that I want to help people somehow.” His testy response was: “That’s B.S.” (he didn’t use the acronym) “You know a lot more about yourself than you suppose – if you’d just take the time to think hard about it.”
That got my attention. I sheepishly began the hard work of asking myself specific questions about my gifts.
So, OK, let’s say you like working with people. But what are you really great at doing with people? Are you an astute observer of emotions? Are you gifted at offering genuine praise? Are you the person others seek out to share problems with? Can you tell a story that spellbinds your listeners? Are you good at running a meeting?
“Working with people” isn’t a talent. It’s a massive constellation of talents. Until you identify what your precise gifts are, it’s almost impossible to figure out what type of work you are best suited to do.
If you think there is nothing particularly unique about your gifts – that you are just one of millions who are good at some general thing – then (pardon my bluntness), you just aren’t thinking hard enough. My ethics prof says so.
What is your way? You have a unique flavor… if you will just do the work of discovering it. Nobody is just plain vanilla.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, which will include a special guest. I can’t wait to share it (and him)!