I recently read a great book entitled, ‘Sweet Spot Careers’ by Maria Simonelli. In it she outlines very comprehensively an approach to finding your career sweet spot by first doing a bit of self-assessment work, understanding your strengths and offerings to the world of work and also researching what is out there that would best suit. It’s a great resource for those in mid-life transition particularly, who have spent the last 15 plus years getting to a place in their career where they have stepped back and taken a helicopter view of their worklife and found it wanting.
That being said, I would like to share some of my own thoughts with you about the concept of a ‘sweet spot’. Firstly, how do you define it? And does it really exist? And is it for everyone? Let’s not make any assumptions here, because part of me has a bit of a problem with the idea that a career sweet spot actually exists and that you can find it. Additionally, there is added pressure for some of us that if we can’t find our sweet spot we have somehow either failed or missed our calling.
In doing some Googling, I discovered some interesting graphics that featured Venn diagrams with the identified ‘sweet spot’ being at the intersection of various circles that overlap. I think the idea that there is a convergence or overlap of needs and motivations, skills and experience, values and priorities is key to the idea of finding a place in your worklife that really works for you. Call it a ‘sweet spot’ if you will.
In my career coaching practice, I use an illustration of a target with a bullseye and use the bullseye as an example of the way most people go about their search for employment. The bullseye represents a ‘job’, the ‘ideal job’ or something similar. Have you ever done archery or played darts? Isn’t it really difficult to hit the bullseye? Even Olympic archers with their fancy carbon fibre bows don’t always hit the centre. What if there was another way to look at it?
Often people consider the sweet spot in their career journey to be a little like the bullseye on a target. Knowing how hard it is to hit that spot, perhaps it is unrealistic to think that all of us can actually hit the career bullseye in our lifetime. It seems to be a great way to set ourselves up to fail, rather than succeed, in trying to find fulfillment and satisfaction in our work life by aiming for that ‘sweet spot’.
So, I am going to suggest another approach. Putting the idea of a sweet spot aside but using the principle of the overlap of important factors in worklife satisfaction, I believe there is another way of doing the journey towards a fulfilling career.
So, let’s turn the whole target into the bullseye! The chances of hitting the target are far greater, aren’t they? So what does the target represent? It represents your world of work, the industry for example that is interesting for you. In exploring your world of work, think about what is actually interesting to you or are passionate about. Are you interested in manufacturing, the environment, community services, education, performing arts, media, tourism? Think about what grabs your attention. Back to the Venn diagram – that can form one of your circles – your passion and interests.
Secondly, think about your strengths and skills and experience that you can bring to that area of interest. You may be a truck driver with an interest in plants. You might have terrific administrative or organizational skills with an interest in tourism. You might be very creative or just brilliant with people. That can form your second circle – your talent, skills and experience.
Thirdly, think about the rewards or benefits you get from doing what you are good at in the context of something you are interested in. For example, you might get rewarded by being paid (the most common answer), feeling good about helping others (a motivation for much volunteering) or you might not get paid much, but you are getting great experience, meeting interesting people or maybe travelling and seeing some exciting places in the world. Don’t limit the benefit for doing these activities to just financial reward. That forms your third circle – rewards and benefits.
So, now let’s have a look at our three circles:
The three circles represent the value you bring to the world of work. And they are not fixed – you can name the circles what you want, depending on what is important to you. In your career journey, if you can be clear about what is important to you and what you have to offer, this will drive the choices you make. And then at the intersection you are likely to find what is satisfying and fulfilling and if you like, your sweet spot!