The other day, chatting it up with a fellow MOAT, I shared that, although my kids are working – and learning great things – I’m not sure both are hitting stride in the strength area. At this point in life, I think the work itself and lessons learned from answering to someone other than their folks are worth falling short of a bulls-eye. Nevertheless, helping them find areas in life where they are naturally gifted is worth considerable time and effort.
She was quick to tell me that her college major and her giftedness not only didn’t match but couldn’t have been more opposite.
“My dad pushed me into the business school. I on the other hand drooled over friends in the art department. Not just the art department, but anything that included “fashion” in the description. Knowing the fairly limited career mobility and need for financial stability, my father convinced me that practical is better than passion. You can do the passion stuff as a hobby that will be paid for by the career.”
My super creative friend followed the advice of her dad… got a business degree. Her job after college? The Institutional Equity Desk at Merrill Lynch. Lots of young grads would have killed for that job. Not her. She tolerated. Barely. “Every day I would wake up and get on my game face. I’d put on my blue suit. Get in character and do my job… sneaking to the bathroom throughout the day for a quick fix from the New York Times fashion page.” She was miserable.
Now she’s a photographer, loving every super creative minute. Well almost every minute. It’s a job. To her dad’s credit, though, she is using that business degree. But still… She looks back and wishes she had followed her heart. The miserable grind and years doing a job she despised just might have been avoided.
I had a similar experience in corporate banking. So many days felt like fingernails scratching a blackboard. Being less than organized or detail-oriented, I never got along well with credit files. Sure I can understand the need to carefully calculate ratios, especially when they involve a company’s loan agreement and covenants. I just had a hard time remembering to do them. After months of blah, I peeked back at something my folks did for us when we were kids. They had our aptitudes tested.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that mine revealed absolutely no aptitude for being detail-oriented. Off the charts in creativity, I was encouraged, in the report, to pursue careers were more along the marketing route. In fact it actually said to avoid the accounting and banking fields. Thank goodness I worked for a large institution and landed in a spot that allowed a bit more creativity and client interaction.
Here’s a blurb from one of the country’s premier aptitude testing facilities, Johnson O’Conner:
“Aptitudes are natural talents, special abilities for doing, or learning to do, certain kinds of things easily and quickly. They have little to do with knowledge or culture, or education, or even interests. They have to do with heredity. Musical talent and artistic talent are examples of such aptitudes.
Some people can paint beautifully but cannot carry a tune. Others are good at talking to people but slow at paperwork. Still others can easily repair a car but find writing difficult. These basic differences among people are important factors in making one person satisfied as a banker, another satisfied as an engineer, and still another satisfied working as an editor. Our aptitude testing will identify your natural abilities.
Every occupation, whether it is engineering, medicine, law or management, uses certain aptitudes. The work you are most likely to enjoy and be successful in is work that uses your aptitudes.” (Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, About Aptitudes)
Here’s to not only equipping our kids, but to helping them find a spot that uses their natural born talents. EVERYONE has them. We’re all happier using them. Until then, my kids will be wiping snotty noses, corralling kiddos on a super hot playground and whatever else the youth center might have them do.
“Just so you know, Mom… I had to mop the kitchen after everyone ate.”
… Well, at least he knew how.
Thanks for walking the road with me.