Satisfying careers are also built on three platforms.
Think of them like a Venn diagram, with circles that overlap at one convergent point. That point is what I call career fit, and it’s foundational to building a career that has you waking up energized in the morning as you head to work.
The first circle is filled with answers to the question: “What can you do well?”
As in, what are your abilities? Your skills? Your knowledge areas? (There we go with that pesky rule of threes again) What are the things that you CAN do, even if you don’t enjoy them? Can you organize, but it’s not something you’d want to do all day every day? Can you balance the budget, but hate every minute spent in your home office? Can you speak in front of groups, but throw up every time you have to because you’re scared to death?
Of course, there are some things you can do that you like. Which brings us to the second circle.
The second circle is filled with answers to the question: “What do you enjoy doing?”
What are you doing when time rushes by and your growling stomach alerts you to the fact that you haven’t eaten lunch and it’s 2pm already? What are you doing when you feel completely in “the zone”, that feeling defined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi as flow? What do you love to do so much that you leap at the chance to do it, no matter when or why or with whom?
Where those two circles overlap is part of the key to career satisfaction – you are doing things you enjoy and that you do well. But there’s one more ingredient.
The third circle is filled with the answers to the question: “What do I enjoy and do well that will provide value, and to whom?”
Of course, there are many answers to that question that do not even come close to the overlap of the first two circles. Being a doctor provides lots of value, but if you faint at the sight of gore that’s not going to work for you. Actors and actresses provide entertainment that is of value, but if you don’t look good on screen or aren’t able to warm the hearts of America that’s not going to work for you either.
You want to do work you love in an area where you have talent and skill, and apply it to provide value so you can get paid.
That’s it. It’s a simple enough concept, but difficult to execute on. That’s what we’ll talk about in a future post.
For now, work on thinking about when time stands still for you and you are in the zone. Are you doing any of that in your job? Conversely, is there anything you do in your job – maybe for just a little bit of the week – where you shine? Those are the activities to write down on an index card and post above your computer or on your cube wall where you will be reminded to make them a priority.
Where do your circles meet?