Practical Career Planning: Weighing Passion and Practicality

I've got to be honest. While there is an element of personal interest in this blog, my priorities for returning to the status of a Founding Editor have more to do with my concern over my market value not being as high as I'd like it to be as I age and concerns my industry depth of knowledge isn't high enough either if I wanted to shift.

I might want to have kids sometime in the next decade before my ovaries fall apart so I need to earn more if that's going to happen. I like nice stuff and the would love to have f*ck you money and f*ck you skills that enable me to change jobs whenever I like free of financial or market valuation concerns. Sadly in the professional world your social status and skills to profitability ratio determine how your company and colleagues treat you, so if you hedge your bets (i.e. are well connected, bring home the bacon) you get to see less ugliness from others.

So, that being said I've been brainstorming what to write about and have asked around for feedback too. This one goes out to a member of the Shanghai Business Book Club I'm in. The experience has been akin to a mini MBA. 

The question was around identifying your passions, strengths and connecting them to your career and or business. After seeing the light in the professional world recently a better approach would be to take these questions and weigh and filter them through the lens of practicality. Think math equation. 

You can use diagnostic tools like Strengthscope to identify your strengths, some corporations' L&D department may offer this to managers. You can also purchase Don Clifton's Strength Finder 2.0 book which will identify your strengths. Ask friends and colleagues for honest feedback. All of these methods help you build self awareness which is critical to knowing what jobs may or may not suit your skill set and personality. Carter Cast's The Right —and Wrong— Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade is on my to read list and could be a good resource too. You can take his derailment quiz for free here to understand how you might be tripping yourself up.

But realistically, if you are planning on having a career as an employee be realistic. Employees are commodities, your valuation depends on supply on demand. Even if you'd be amazing at x, y or z and you'd love to work in a certain industry, is there a corporate need for what you want to do and how much does it pay? Look at job listings, apply for jobs in the market, research the pay online through Glassdoor or your local labor bureau. I use to want to work in events but the pay was dismal, I never wanted to write full time, but other doors didn't open. 

So be sure to weigh your strengths against practical matters, use SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) if that helps to weigh and identify the best option. You can also try the Japanese concept of Ikigai.

You should also be asking yourself - do you want to work really hard or have long hours or set ones? Some industries are known for OT (over time) so if you care more about your lifestyle then it might not be for you. If your top priority is how much you make that needs to be the top influencing factor in the career equation. You might have to do things you aren't good at, don't enjoy or learn new skills. But you can enjoy your paycheck. I for example have to creep around stores every month to take photos for competitive intelligence. I don't like it, but it has built up my product knowledge and helped me grow career wise which is the point in the big picture. A friend shifted from marketing to sales to hit her salary expectations. 

You can always save your passions for volunteer work, how you spend your discretionary income or for hobbies. Since my research areas are around my personal interests, my personal interests are now work. I now keep track of everything that happens through a work lens which means I think about the commercial worth, direction of change and no longer enjoy anything I once did. So, commercializing your passions and learning how it works from a corporate angle is likely to leave your world a bit lack luster.

Having too high of expectations, that you'll love what you do, work normal hours and make buckets of cash isn't realistic. You'll just be burnt out and bitter. So instead try to balance these factors to maximize your career enjoyment, pay and future prospects.

Toodles and don't be naive.