personal skills

Career Nirvana: The Sweet Spot Between Skills and Passion

Nancy Sullivan Blog

personal skills

Imagine your perfect career. Your job is exactly what you want it to be. You love the people you work with, and they value all your contributions. All you can think about is how to make your job last forever.

For many of us, that might seem a bit unrealistic. Like some sort of career nirvana—a perfect but unattainable state of career happiness. In actual fact, this state of career nirvana is attainable for those people who find what I like to call the ‘sweet spot’ between skills and passion. It’s a truly joyous place, full of fulfillment and enthusiasm where you seem to have endless energy for your job.

Like all career decisions, finding your career nirvana requires some deliberate and thoughtful consideration. In this case, you must take inventory of your skills, talents, abilities and experiences.

This is a list of all the things you have done or know how to do. It is not a ‘dump’ of career experiences. To amplify the difference between the two, let me tell you about Mary.

A project manager for several years, Mary really wanted to find a new job, but didn’t know how or where to look. We worked very hard to put together her ‘do’ inventory list, which included the following items:

  • Input and manage Visio software
  • Schedule team meetings
  • Build milestones for team accountability
  • Track all milestone activity

Mary actually had many more items than this on her inventory list. The important thing is that as Mary worked through all the things she had done, or could do, she began to accumulate a compendium of all kinds of things that she did not normally associate with her job.

I then asked Mary if she would tell me about all the other things she does in her life outside work. Her eyes lit up as she told me about managing a Girl Scout troop for her daughter. This included organizing and overseeing fundraising events that had won awards from Girl Scouts for total amounts raised. After talking about these extra curricular things, we added more items to her inventory:

  • Create and staff events
  • Design sales and fundraising events
  • Sales
  • Team motivation

Mary’s inventory grew until it included several dozen things that she did well in her life both in and outside work. Eventually, we realized that Mary’s future career was likely as an event planner. That is what she does now, and she tells everyone that she has truly achieved a state of career nirvana. Simply put, she loves her job.

The lesson from Mary’s journey is pretty obvious: you have to take stock of all the things you are good at, the things that cultivate confidence. Make the list as comprehensive as possible. Leave nothing out, and include even the smallest skill or ability.

When I did this for myself, I actually had flip charts in my kitchen so that every time I remembered another skill or experience, I could add it to my inventory. The point is that this is a list that must be built over time. Be patient and thorough.

You may be worried about where to start. Consider the following:

  1. Start with all your current job or career duties, including all the details in your current job description.
  2. List skills and experiences from past jobs or job descriptions; if you don’t have a former job description, look for one attached to a similar position.
  3. Include skills, talents and experiences from your life, not just your job.
  4. If your work-related experience is a bit thin, include anything you’ve done in a volunteer capacity, things you did regularly at school, and even skills learned from your parents.

The point of the exercise is to paint a complete picture of you as an employee and a person. Once that portrait is finished, you will have a much better idea of where to look for your next great job. And who knows, if you’re lucky, you might even find nirvana.

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