Strengths Vs. Passions: What Makes a Dream Job?

by Cathy Vandewater | December 07, 2012

Why does it seem so many people hate their jobs?

Why is it that, despite chasing our "passions," Elizabethan Poetry or basket-weaving has not yielded satisfying work?

The trouble is, people aren't considering their natural strengths—which are the key to feeling useful, competent, and of course, happy at work. So before you take a job in your dream industry, read the "responsibilities."

Why? Well in short, anxiety, job insecurity, exhaustion, burnout: these are all symptoms of doing work we're not confident in and don't feel very good at in a high pressure environment.

Compare that to the feeling you get working in your garden, or solving a crossword puzzle. Different, huh? Chances are, you engage in those activities because you feel successful at them.

That doesn't mean you should try to turn building model airplanes into a career path, but you should pay attention to the types of tasks that flip your on switch. Here's how to identify which skills you should consider building a job around:

1. You concentrate with ease

Can't stay on task at meetings, but have razor sharp focus when getting all your numbers to check out in a Sudoku? Maybe you're meant to work quietly with numbers and figures, not schmooze clients or handle abstract ideas. What absorbs you is a big clue as to what sort of tasks your brain likes.

2. You feel "outstanding"

Isn't it great to watch others attempt your hobby and fail miserably? Feeling naturally gifted at a certain task can really get you through tough work days with your confidence intact. Pay attention to what you feel you naturally excel at—intuitive decision making? Creating organizational systems? These are smalls skills that entire careers can be built on.

3. You feel rewarded just finishing the task

Dotting the I's and crossing the T's is its own reward when you love doing a certain task—no boss's praise necessary! Think about which projects you've finished to completion without any outside pressure. Or perhaps the last task you finished and got a huge charge of satisfaction from.

4. You're amped to learn more

Do you geek out on related blogs or trade magazines? Love learning the theory behind your favorite hobby? Get excited at mastering new techniques for your work? Pay attention to why, and what type of stuff you're trying to get better at.

5. You feel competent

So clearly, you're not going to feel fabulous at even in your most natural element. That's fine—it's even to be expected. But if you feel baseline competent at certain types of jobs, even on a bad day, you're on to something.

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Read More:
The Psychology Of Choosing Your Perfect Job (Business Insider)
5 Biggest Hiring and Firing Stories of 2012
Fake It 'Til You Make It?

Filed Under: Job Search


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