Follow your passion? Or follow your skills and strengths?

An interesting discussion was held the other day as my boss and I discussed whether you should follow your passion and your dream job role, or whether you should pursue your skills and strengths and see where they lead you…

In my experience, very few people know what they want to do when they grow up, however old they are!

I have regularly been challenged over why I did an archaeology degree. From being laughed at to being sarcastically being asked ‘Well, what use is that?’! (n.b. there have also been equal measures of people who have been as enthusiastic as me, too!) My answer has generally always been along the lines of ‘I love people, I am interested in people, how they live, what we can discover about our past enables us to better understand and contextualise the present and the future… Not to mention all the transferrable skills the course gave me or the complete genuine interest and passion I feel for the discipline.’

Whilst completing my finals, I wrote to every museum in the country (at great expense) with a standard letter asking for a job – and guess what? Nothing. One museum came back and said they would keep my letter on my file… they have never contacted me!

So heading home after my degree, I started to explore job opportunities under pressure from my parents to ‘get a job’, but not really sure what I wanted to do. I ended up going to a group graduate sales interview in London, mainly because it was a well-paid opportunity. One of the interviewers asked one of the girls ‘Why do you want to sell people as opposed to a product?’.  BOOM – at that moment I realised I could do that job, I would be good at that, I would love it  – I got people, I could sell people! Within 2 weeks I started my first job role in recruitment.

Now if you had asked me before that interview, I would have said that ‘Archaeology’ was my passion. What I hadn’t realised until then was that actually, people are my passion; getting them motivated and excited about things; communicating with them, helping to develop them to recognise and be confident in their skills; helping them get engaged in a new project or opportunity; evolving, changing, convincing, moving forwards  – all of those things are what make me tick.  Those skills are useful in lots of careers…

So… had I followed my ‘passion’, I would probably still be searching for museum jobs! But I followed my skills and strengths and developed my career. 

It’s not often that you get someone at a young age who knows what they want to do in life… and I teach my children that’s ok. I recall fondly the Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen song by Baz Luhrman ‘…The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't…’  But if you pursue the things you enjoy and you enjoy your pursuits, you are far more likely to gravitate towards a career that you enjoy, too. ‘…Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s…’.

Nicky Hutchinson, Recruitment & Talent Manager, Unlocking Potential


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