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Friday, February 03, 2006


Career Counselling for the Gifted

Thanks to soh for today's question:

"I also found standard career counselling useless but I'm curious as to why it is so useless for those with a higher IQ. What rationale did you arrive at?"

Corporations like people to fit neatly into the jobs they have available. They need people to be predictable and to perform consistently, because they are trying to produce a standard product. The standard product helps them build their market and build trust with their customers. Makes good sense.

Gifted people are many things but usually not terribly predictable and consistent, at least not over the long haul. They are always testing the system and thinking of ways to do things better. Many thrive on change and need to be constantly learning. Rarely do they stay neatly within their job description. The same traits that cause friction in the educational system are even more problematic in the workplace, where there is no duty to accommodate and the bottom line rules.

Career counsellors are trying to get you employed, and all their assesments come from the same basic assumption; there is a list of possible jobs, and they will try to fit you neatly into one of them that uses your skills and aptitude. Multipotentiality complicates this approach with many gifted people - who may be excellent at multiple unrelated skills, giving a uniformly high score in skill or interest subtests.

More importantly, career counsellors are not about helping you figure out what will allow you to fulfil your potential nor supporting you as you invent a way to make money doing it. If all you want is to make money, and live your real life outside of work hours (see Einstein), this is a sound approach. But if you want work that is truly engaging and huge fun, you may have to create it yourself - like this guy. Even more difficult is the need to be prepared to innovate yet again, as your internal drive to growth looks for the next challenge.

This is potentially a whole book (yes, I'm going to write it!) but I think it mainly boils down to the incompatibility of the gifted and the corporation. I am making huge generalizations here, but there simply isn't any research on this yet - I'm looking at grad school! I feel very strongly that both groups need each other; I would love to find a way to make it work.

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Joanna, I just find your blog so inspiring. I read and am constantly saying 'yes, yes, yes'.

For years I have wondered why I keep getting great jobs only to be looking for a way out, usually within the first two months of starting. Learning to understand myself in this new light is a precious thing! Thank you.
I am really encouraged by the postmodern trend going on, where customers want more customized products. Shifting from when corporations "...need people to be predictable and to perform consistently, because they are trying to produce a standard product."

Because of the shift to post modern times, I think people who are creative will find a place for themselves more easily in the world of commerce. I think people in general are happier in the traditional crafts era type of work and the postmodern type of work. I think the industrial era has been hard on humans.

It used to feel like a curse, but it's turned out to be good that I couldn't fit myself into those industrial type- do everything the same jobs.
I think braidwood is right. It varies tremendously, but recently I've found myself in a strong and exciting group and the only thing that has really held me back is me - it took awhile before I was willing to be blunt about the fact that I'm desperately bored in a complex job I've been in too long, and want something quite different than what is on offer. We'll see how it all pans out, but I've suddenly got upper management very interested in me, sympathetic to the boredom issue, and rallying around to help me find something else and acting like they are keen to have me around. Suddenly, instead of feeling like I'm being a colassal pain in the ass, I'm feeling a wave of real appreciation - omg, they act like now that they know me better, they really like me! what a surprise. And yet I've done nothing but refuse to accept no, and been incredibly direct and blunt about what I need.
Thanks for the comments, everyone. Hayden, congratulations on speaking your truth and finding a welcoming environment for it!
I guess I'm kinda late to the game here...I'm Kaden from Eccentric Genius (the 'this guy' from the original post).

This is a damned useful blog, BTW...excellent dataflow, strong analysis. Bueno!

Anyway, making your own career is the only real sure-fire way for smart folk to find job satisfaction...It's a path fraught with peril though: You need to frenetically multi-task what you know how to do while at the same time teaching yourself the countless skills you never knew you needed.

You'll be doing this *by yourself*, as a result of the 'curse of competency' ("You're smart...what do you need help for?"), which generally turns your life into a never ending succession of seat-of-the-pants improvisations.

It's a character building experience.

What entrepreneurship provides in spades is opportunity. Your mandate is to recognize said opportunity, and capitalize on it efficiently. This requires you to Pay Attention to Just About Everything, and adapt accordingly.

Which is another character building experience.

It's worth it though, provided you like surprises...I started out buildin' stuff...3 years later, I'm *writing* about buildin' stuff, having had a book commissioned by O'Reilly Media. Who'd a thunk that 36 months ago?

My $.02

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