The Curse of the Competent

Think about the people you know. How many of them are blessed with obvious limitations and constraints that limit their careers into only a few channels? These individuals are indeed “blessed” because they don’t harbor the anxiety faced by people with multiple career options. These blessed are welcomed for the perfected skills they bring to specific settings.

Now think about the multi-competent.This is a remarkably large pool of people who have the ability to succeed in just about any course of study or career paths they choose to pursue. Their “curse” is the angst that accompanies having so many choices.

Precisely because they have the potential to do well academically in a variety of educational pursuits or training regimens, multi-competent individuals often express frustration over factors such as: which school to attend, what their major should be, what training courses to enroll in, or which certifications or licenses to achieve.

Or they ruminate over which industry, organization, service or product line, or geographic location offers the potential for the financial and career/life balance rewards they are seeking…the proverbial brass ring that will surely sustain them as they journey through their careers.

The irony is obvious. The most competent are also the most cursed because it is difficult for them to find a predictable career path amid a world of constant change. So what is a competent person to do?

One solution for lifting the curse of the competent is to apply the virtue of discernment.    

Recognize Your Dream
Each of us is born to contribute in this world. This truth existed long before there were employment markets and industries as we know them today. Yet, far too many highly competent people surrender to faulted predictions of employment demand instead of listening to their own hearts. Wise seekers arm themselves with resources for discerning their individual gifts and passions.

Explore Your Options
Having a clear idea about the values, interests and passions that drive you naturally leads seekers to schools, studies, vocations and careers that match their paths in life. Some gain clarity from exercises and self-help books, others from internships or through consulting assignments and moonlighting, still others from seeking career advisors and business psychologists for professional insight. 

Rather than inquiring into the future market for particular skills, competent seekers explore ways to maximize their preparation for those paths that are best suited for them individually. 

Consider Your Contributions
While it may seem contrary to the typical career management thought process, a personally-focused exploration most often leads toward a more rewarding life for the seeker, as well as a better world for all of us.

For example, statistics suggest a strong current and future market for nursing and elder care services, but that shouldn’t be the main criteria for selecting it as a profession. If you are lucky enough to have the curse of the competent, take the career path that speaks to you as a person. Plus, who among us wants to be aided by a certified caregiver who chose the career for job market reasons instead of from a deep personal desire to serve the elders?

Or consider the new crop of teachers who will prepare the generations to come. Wouldn’t you prefer that they chose the teaching career in order to contribute to students’ learning, rather than merely entering into a “hot job market”.

The next time a person with many competencies asks “What do you think I should do?”, you might consider responding:  Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dream."