How to Choose a Career.

Jun 5th, 2011 | By | Category: abundance, aptitude, career choice, choosing a career, mentor, natural talent, skills

Graduation time is here. For many of us this is the first time we really face making a serious life decision. Although we’ve made decision along the way, until we graduate from high school or college, most of our career decisions were pretty much mandated. Now for the first time, we have to really decide what we are going to do.

Although there is a lot of emphasis on careers and career training, there is really very little guidance on choosing a career. Tim Tryell-Smith offers some high level advice in his article “How to Choose a Career That’s Best for You”. Tim offers a series of questions where the answers will point you in the direction of what career you would be good at and enjoy. This is very good advice, but first one would need to be able to answer the questions.
For example, the first question, “ What are your natural talents?” is a really a great question, but how many really know how to answer it? There is a general belief that we all have special natural talents, which enable us to learn and perform profitable tasks in an enjoyable and proficient manner. This has really not been my experience. It would be just as difficult for me to make a list of my natural talents now, as it was when I was in high school, in fact it may even be more difficult. Try it now! Can you mentally think of 3 of your natural talents?

It almost seems easier to observe natural talents in others than it is to identify our own natural talents. For example, my sister had a natural talent for music. She learned to play several instruments when she was in school and was a very good pianist. In all fairness she did make some extra money giving piano lessons, but even with her natural talent, scores of music lessons, and years of practice, there was no opportunity for a profitable career. Several of my friends were very good at sports. Baseball, football, basketball … – they excelled at all of them. Some were even outstanding players in high school and college – only a few are still connected with sports as high school teacher with ancillary duties as coaches. There are several, who volunteer to coach community league sports, and they do enjoy it but there is no opportunity for a career.

Perhaps music and sports are bad examples, but when I think of natural talents – music and sports are the first two categories that spring to mind. I am sure no matter the task some of us that are better than others, but most of us are average, and would not deviate far from the average range in any given category. In fact with some training and practice most of us would perform equally well at most tasks.

My observation is a little different when it comes to identifying things we are good at and enjoy doing. In my experience, most things that I am “good at” and enjoy doing were developed through seeing things I would like to be able to do and practicing until I gained some skill at it. For example, learning to ride a two-wheel bicycle. When I was a kid riding a two-wheel bicycle was a right of passage. Everyone learned to ride a two-wheeler. It seems simple now, but it was no small challenge. I personally suffered many scraped elbows and knees before mastering the art of balancing, starting, stopping and turning with control. Some learned quicker than others, but we all had to learn. No one I know just got on and rode a way on the first try, and no one gave up and quit without learning. No one was a natural at bike riding, but everyone in my neighborhood learned as soon as they could reach the pedals, and once they learned they enjoyed riding their bikes up until they were old enough to drive a car.

So finding things we like to do and are good at takes both exposure and practice. Even if we do not have a natural talent for something we like to do, we can still master and enjoy it through study and practice.

Perhaps a better first step in choosing a career would be to identify areas of interest. The next step may be exploring our areas of interest to determine the physical and mental training required to perform the required tasks. I wanted to be an airplane pilot ever since I can remember. One of the requirements for a professional pilot was 20/20 eyesight without glasses. When I was 12 I injured my eye and that was the end of that dream. I could still have gotten a private pilot license, but my career strategy was learn to fly in the military. Then assess your aptitude, ability and desire (perseverance) to become proficient in that profession. This is more difficult than it sounds, be honest with yourself and ask for advice.

Good luck

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