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Don’t get good at what you don’t want to do

November 2, 2011 - Professional Development

world's best bossI think we all have one of those stories about our first boss, and that memorable thing s/he told us in our formative first year in the corporate world.  I am no different.  In fact, a single month still probably doesn’t go by in which I don’t recite this particular memory.

The most insightful thing my first boss ever told me:

“Don’t get good at something you don’t want to do.”

At the time, I chuckled self-consciously, of course focusing on the fact that it was a disguised compliment.  That I was actually starting to get good at something in the office, finally.  But from that day onward, I’ve been amazed at how often it’s come back to stare me directly in the face.

In the book Make It Work (Navigating Your Career Without Leaving Your Organization), the authors highlight sixteen career myths and also their corresponding truths.  Myth #10: You need to find a career doing what you are good at.

The authors describe the myth further by saying,

“The simple idea is that if you do work that you are good at, you will find greater prosperity and stability in your career. …Clearly, it is always a good idea to be aware of your areas of strength and weaknesses.  However, when your areas of perceived aptitude are the primary reason for choosing and following a career direction, you run the risk of not tapping into the real source of career wealth — your passions.”

And just in this past week, I realized I was falling into that trap.  I had stepped into the quicksand of success, of other’s praise and encouragement, and was instantly blinded.  It’s so damn easy to get blinded by the idea that you’re good at something.  It’s so easy to let that become the path to your life’s work, regardless of previous plans and dreams.

Truth #10: You must find a career doing what you love.

So let this be my testament.  Just because I’m good at translating words and ideas into pretty charts and pictures, doesn’t mean I want to be the team’s Powerpoint slinger.

Just because I’m good at navigating corporate politics doesn’t mean I want to become the next CIO.

Just because I adjusted well to outsourcing doesn’t mean I don’t want to be intimate with the enterprise technologies.

Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m not a total geek.

BUT, just because I love and want to be a technology expert doesn’t mean I can’t be an influential leader in any Fortune 500’s IT organization.

Do what you love.

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