When your talent becomes the ‘enemy’

For 20 years she did a great job at doing a job that didn’t really suit her talents and she did it so well that all her bosses and coworkers believed it was her talent. And so did she. We was recognised for her results and built a beautiful career. Until she discovered it was the recognition the fed her, not the constant battle for being great at something that wasn’t her talent. And then she burned out.
Maybe you wouldn’t believe, but I’m convinced I could be a great management assistant if I wanted to. With great I mean that my bosses would be happy, because it’s always a case of honour for me be great at what I do. But I’d never be a top assistant. As a student, I even worked as an assistant for six weeks and my coworkers hated me. They thought I was working way to fast and were afraid I would make the bosses used to this pace. But they didn’t know my real secret: I hate administration with a passion. I love having all my ducks in a row but the process doesn’t bring me any joy. And even-though I became really good at organising myself, I even teach time management for over 10 years, I will never be an admin or procedure hero and I’m so happy I can outsource it to a real assistant who does a far better job than me.
What’s your talent that actually makes you happy?
Our career choices are not always based on interests. We end up in a career path because we were good at something at school, because of job security, because of sensible choices. Being good at something is not always the best choice in the long term if you don’t really love what you do or see the purpose. According to the authors Buckingham & Clifton strengthening your weaknesses isn’t the path to joy either, it’s merely ‘damage control‘. Still some people are so good at many things that it gets them on the wrong track. Do you know what your natural talents are? Are there any acquired skills that you would rather use less?
Do you dare to think out of the box?
In ‘The future of Work’ author Darrel M. West claims that the majority of current jobs will disappear in the near future due to technology and automation. Contrary to some decades ago, this would not necessarily lead to other jobs, because the new tasks that would come to exist could also be taken up by machines. We all may be confronted in the coming years with a profound repositioning exercise. What would you do if what you do today would come to a stop? How could you be creative with everything you’ve learned, the things that fascinate you that so far you maybe didn’t explore? Do you have the guts to think about it? I see many people brighten up when they see options. Even their current jobs becomes a positive choice and that brings a certain peace of mind. And as a career coach I’ve learned people are flexible and capable of re-inventing themselves.
What do you want to use your talent for?
But a far more important question as a human and a coach is still what it would make worthwhile to spend your talent on. What would make every day a day worth living? What difference would you like to make in the world? I hear a lot of resistance, like ‘you have to be realistic’, ‘you have to pay the bills’, of ‘I’m definitely not starting from scratch at my age!’. Maybe we won’t get the choice. I’ve seen people in outplacement who were confronted with job loss. The most beautiful thing to witness, is that they made conscious choice about where and how to apply their talent and that they are capable of doing so. What do you want to use your talent for? What really matters to you?
It took me years to discover my real talents and how I could make them of use to the world. And to realise some of my skills were acquired, but that I have to avoid choosing or creating a job that constantly makes use of them. It will eat my energy and joy. Make sure your talent doesn’t become your enemy!


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