Career Resources

Don't waste your time doing what you're good at

Don't waste your time doing what you're good at

By The Good Jobs Team, 19 Jun 2017

Job seeking strategies Enhancing your career The social sector

You've already had a lot of education - about 13,500 hours of it if you've completed primary school, secondary school and three years of tertiary study. And you've had choices. In secondary and tertiary education you had to pick some subjects and drop others. If you're anything like most people, you went with your strengths. You took the subjects you thought you could do best at - partly to maximise your marks in a competitive system, and partly so you could stretch your talents.

By now, you know what you're good at. You've had an opportunity to compare yourself with the best and find your particular niche. You're looking for a job that will make maximum use of the things you know how to do.

Well, that's one way of doing it, at least. But don't forget the other.

You dropped a number of other perfectly good things along the way. You had to. You went with science over humanities, or the other way around; languages or mathematics; drama or business studies - cutting out versus colouring in, if you go back far enough. You went on with what you were good at, or, to put it another way, you did what came naturally as opposed to knuckling down and overcoming the problems you had in other areas. Which means, of course, that the problems are still there.

You're already good at what you're good at. You don't need more practice. Is it time to think about diversifying?

Learn new things

There are going to be upheavals in the job market during your working life, wherever you work. Few people are going to be able to spend their lives doing one thing. If you're ready to head off in a new direction, that helps to keep you ahead of the game.

Don't let your career become set in stone when it's hardly begun. Wherever you work, and whatever you do, check out the training budget. Find out about opportunities for taking time off for another course, or another diploma, or another degree. Look around the job site or the office for projects that'll stretch you into new areas, that'll have you desperately trying to keep up, that'll take you out of your comfort zone and equip you to go in a completely different direction.

Stretch yourself

Put your hand up for things you don't know how to succeed at yet (within limits). You can learn on the job, if you're open to learning and put in the time. Brain surgery, perhaps not - but first aid, yes. Ask yourself what the ads are asking for that you haven't got in your resumé and ask yourself how hard it would be to get those skills. If you did decide to learn them, could you fake it till you make it?

Yes, it's taken a lot of work to get the qualifications that you have now -but giving too much weight to that is what's known in economics as the sunk costs fallacy. Yes, it's taken you a long time - but it's never too late to start over, if there's a good reason to do so.

Look on your job as a starting point, not a destination. Look on it as a training course, one you don't want to have to repeat next year. If you're not moving up, you're dropping behind: getting no new skills, and getting older. Make your job teach you.

It's not easy - that's the whole point. When faced with the choice of two evils, go with the one you haven't tried yet.