Thursday, February 4, 2010

Getting Your First Job: "What Am I Good At?" (Part 4 of 7)

At the request of one of my loyal fans, I'm spending this week tackling the subject of how to get your first job.

You know what sucks? Being interested in everything and good at nothing. You know what else sucks? When people tell you that you should go into a career that is an uber extension of some hobby you've got. Vacuums, black holes, and dehydrated lips on a straw in water also suck (but I digress).

I've got this theory that everyone is wired to do one thing better than most other things. You might be a good basketball and baseball player, but you're just a good athlete. You can sing and dance, but you're brain just a natural performer. Personally I'm really good at understanding the needs of people, which makes me look like I'm good at recruiting, sales, marketing, writing, give feedback, and anything else that involves positioning. I kind of suck at dating though, which I haven't quite figured out (maybe I talk about work too much?)

One person asked meet recently how to figure out what they're good at. That's a hard thing to know how to do, but if you pay attention you can figure it out slowly but surely.

    Here's some tips on spotting and/or finding your talents:

  • Get tested. I went to JOCRF when I was 20. It was fun, and I learned that I have the worst finger dexterity of any human ever and I'm really good at spatial thinking.

  • People tell you your good at something all the time. People never tell me I'm good at singing or interior decorating, but they say I'm funny and good at sales. Most people are good at saying things that are obvious and don't require much thought, and sometimes those observations are helpful, like identifying that I'm funny and good at sales.

  • Don't confuse work with a lack of ability. When I was growing up my work ethic sucked, which made it really hard to learn things that take practice. In my adult life I learned that some things I thought I would be bad at, such as starting my own business, were things I really could accomplish with work. You know how there are successful morons out there? They probably work hard, which means you can do that, too.

  • Measure how long it takes to get something into your head. I am very good at solving problems, but I suck at learning math and science-ish type junk. For example, I like writing software, but it takes me forever to understand the concepts. Sure, if I'd been doing it for a long time maybe it'd come more naturally now, but it's been like that ever since I was a kid. Even though I can do it, getting the knowledge and experience into my head takes FOREVER. Going back to my spatial sense though, I'm really good at thinking about how software components fit together, like Legos.

  • Compare yourself to someone who is really good. See if you think that you could get there. I suggest comparing yourself to someone a 3-5 years more experienced so that it feels relevant, mostly because I think most of us can't imagine further than 3-5 years into the future.

  • Don't think of frustration as a bad thing. It's just a thing. If you try something long enough and it doesn't get easier, just quit and move on. Being a stubborn jackass about thinking you'll improve when you're wrong is just lame. Go read Seth Godin's book The Dip on this subject. Better yet, read the first chapter in the bookstore. Sorry Seth, but that book could have been about 10 pages long.

  • Make up your own mind, because acting on someone else's idea of what you should be doing is a one way ticket to misery. If your parents will only pay for an engineering degree and you want to study music, you don't have to take their money. You could not go to college or pay your own way. Even better yet for the hardcore, do what my friend did in college - major in engineering AND music (it's the same price for 16 units or 32!), and after graduation go work in the music business.

  • Try stuff. You don't learn shit by staring at a wall, except perhaps that walls typically don't move and your wish for x-ray vision didn't come true.

1 comment:

  1. I wish there were a "Forward to Every Overbearing Parent and Clueless High School Guidance Counselor in the World" application so that I could broadcast this post and save young people a lot of the trouble I had!