A client just asked me for some career advice, and her quandary resurrected the memory of hundreds of similar conversations I’ve had over the last decade or more. This well and extensively educated woman was looking for a career that provided her with “a good fit.” She said, “I was trained in the sciences, but I don’t like lab work, and I don’t want to teach.” She continued, “I like the idea office work, but I don’t want to manage anyone at this point, and while I think I could be a good consultant, the sales and business development parts of that job sound unpleasant.”
This woman’s paradigm or narrative was that she was a puzzle piece looking for her snugly fitting space into which she could snap. While such a “fit” may well be possible, I believe professional happiness comes with a change in paradigm, a change of image—not a puzzle piece looking for its space, but a ball of clay being formed.
When powered by the image of a ball of clay, career searchers regard their education and past experience as additional matter added to the ball–more raw material from which to draw options and power. Rather than looking for the perfect fit, these career searchers look for a good place to land, at which time they sculpt themselves into something that–using as much of their clay as they can—is beneficial to both themselves and their employers.
Over time (maybe even a short period of time), this kind of career approach can develop into something that fits 2/3 of your target goals–maybe even more, which is great. I believe remarkably fitting jobs still cover only cover about 80% of anyone’s root desires, and most jobs end up not feeling remarkable.
When people as me for career advice, I tell them to be balls of clay, not puzzle pieces.