A way to think about Career & Personal Development

The last 5 years I have been thinking a lot about career and personal development. I sat on both sides of the table. Thinking and working on personal development myself, but also helping other young professionals to do the same and coaching students to help them to kickstart their careers after graduation.

I noticed I am quite passionate about the subject and because of that, I have been giving it a lot of thought. These insights and train of thoughts appeared very helpful to others, which is why I thought of writing them down and sharing them. So whether you are a student struggling with picturing the start of your career, or you’re a manager that’s coaching people, or you are just one of the many that is thinking “I am not sure whether I am where I want to be career-wise”.. I hope my experiences and thoughts about this subject can help you.

This article is the first of a series of 3, sketching the outline of a theory that can help to think about career/personal development. It might be the most boring one since it’s describing a theory. But it’s definitely a good starting point for the other two articles which describe more personal stories and tips to work on it yourself.

Conceptual frameworks, you gotta love them. It tries to make something complex really simple, to give it some structure so that you can wrap your head around it. At least that is what I like about them and also in this case it really helped me to think about my career and my personal development. But it also made it possible for me to explain it to students, young professionals or my managers in that sense.

So that is where I want to start with, the framework that helped me a lot and I also use for coaching. It’s the Venn diagram that is shown below. I stumbled upon it when I started my career and have used it ever since. Because multiple people wrote about it it’s hard to reference to somebody, but below I will explain the concept in my own words.

In the diagram you see three concepts: interests, skills & opportunities. Just like any Venn-diagram, you want to go for the sweet spot, the place where these three subjects overlap. We all want to do something that we love right? You better, otherwise your career will be very long and painful. And it helps if we are good at these things and that there is actually a job to make a living with it.

Well.. that was it. Simple right? But let’s dive into it a bit better so that it you can start your own train of thoughts.

Interests — doing what you love.

This is about the things that you like, your interests. Things that give you energy. Do you already know what you would fill in for your interests? On the one hand it’s very hard, but on the other hand also very simple. Why? I think because it’s personal. Nobody is going to give you the answers (unless they know you very well). But you can answer it all by yourself. And although it might not be the most satisfying tip, but it can be anything. Whether its coaching people, designing beautiful websites, clean code, football, cat-videos, as long as you are passionate about it.

Skills — doing something you’re good at.

Well this probably is quite self-explanatory. It’s about your skills and all the talents you have. These can be your technical skills, computer skills, soft skills. Your talents for structure, your emotional intelligence, etc. But maybe you are very good at juggling, don’t be modest, these are skills as well. And sometimes they say more about you and your talents than you think.

Where do your skills and interests overlap? This is where it becomes interesting. Because being good in something that you love is really a sweet spot. It gives you a very solid base of a fun and fulfilling career. And you can chase this sweet spot yourself. Your interests might not alter that much, but obtaining skills that complement your passion is definitely within your span of control.

The interests and skills are the personal parts of the diagram. Do you know where they overlap for you?

Opportunities — your career.

As mentioned before, it’s quite nice if you can actually get a job and earn a living. In a lot of cases it might be the main driver. So the term describes it very well, jobs are opportunities. Also pointing out that it is sometimes out of your own hands. You might be very lucky (like myself) to be in a sector where there are a lot of opportunities that overlap with your interests and skills. You might be unlucky where the market is tough and you have to look very very hard to find an opportunity. But in general, there are thousands of jobs, and all of them are opportunities. But what is the right opportunity for you? Well if you ask me… where there is the most overlap with your skills & interests. If you don’t have the skills for the job, you won't get hired. If you don’t have the interests, you won’t be happy practicing it.

How does your dream job look like? And which opportunity comes closes?

Me on the Moon

Thought this theory was not that inspiring? I actually thought the same while I was working at bol.com. This is why I used a different metaphor describing the same thing. We used this metaphor to help Young Professionals to work on Personal Development. Without repeating myself I added a screenshot from the booklet about it. Can you relate the concepts of the metaphor to the Venn Diagram? Probably you can, it's not rocket science (pun intended).

How the framework could help

To sum up. This diagram should help to think about your career. There are different perspectives, different scenarios more or less. For example: it can help to think about your development. If you are thinking about certain career paths you can make more concrete what you need to improve (skills) to get there. Or at least obtain skills that are complementing your interests. But it can also help to think about it from the other way around, about what is a right job or a right career path for you. Helping to look for the right opportunities and pick the job that gives you energy. What to do to increase the chance of finding a job you love? Develop skills that complement your interests (1). Search for all kinds of job opportunities (2), and pick an opportunity that overlaps with your interests and skills.

I hope this way of thinking can help you or someone you know in the same way how it helped me to think about my career and my personal development. Don’t be shy to leave a comment, and let me know your own thoughts about this!

In the next articles I will write down some more practical tips on how to create your own profile and how to look for and map the job opportunities.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.




Product Manager at Polarsteps | Always up for using creativity and making complex problems simple(r) and fun!

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Jim van der Waal

Jim van der Waal

Product Manager at Polarsteps | Always up for using creativity and making complex problems simple(r) and fun!

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