As an executive recruiter, I often am asked for career-positioning advice. How should an experienced executive make decisions about what roles and industries to pursue? The question is particularly important for a person with multiple competencies, trying to decide how to align their interests and skills with the job market.
Having options does not lessen the need for focus. And focus is not about selecting the "right" choice between several options; it is saying: "A, B, C and D all have potential, and I choose to focus myself on A and C and see them through."
I've created a simple Venn diagram to help. Remember Venn diagrams in grade-school math? They are interlocking circles which represent the overlap among groups.
In the first circle, list what you enjoy doing. In the second circle, list what you are good at. In the third circle, list those for which there is a market. The overlap among the three circles is your sweet spot — concentrate on this shortlist. Here's how to apply it:
Circle 1: What you enjoy doing. List those things you enjoy doing. Categorize them into those you greatly enjoy and find motivating, and those you find tolerable.
Warren Buffett enjoys evaluating companies' finances, market position and executives. He is not energized by day-to-day operational management and so has never run a large company.
Circle 2: What you do well. List those things you have proved to do well. Categorize them into those in which you excel, and those in which you are genuinely competent.
Enjoying what you do can spur excellence, but, is no guarantee. And often our strongest competencies do not motivate our hearts.
Michael Jordan retired from being the best basketball player on the planet to play baseball, his original passion. Despite his ability, focus and desire, he couldn't hit a (minor league) curveball, and soon he was back playing basketball and winning NBA championships.
Circle 3: There's a market for it. In our capitalist society, the market rewards excellence only in services or products for which there is demand. With careers, like products, it is important that the skill you are selling answers a real market need and not be what venture capitalists call "a solution seeking a problem."
Isaac Cheifetz, a Twin Cities executive recruiter, can be reached through catalytic1.com.