Career choices: Are you Shaq on a basketball court, or Shaq on a volleyball court?

Making responsible career choices is all about finding which strengths and skills you have that you can use to get business done better for an organization you can believe in.   Unfortunately, too many people only focus on career choices that look good to others without really knowing much about how the daily demands and tasks related to a specific career really fit who they are in terms of personality, natural strengths and preferences.

Making responsible career choices is difficult, especially if people that are important to you push you to make what they perceive as safe career choices.   But are these career choices what you are your best at?  Think about some of the people you know that have taken a riskier path?  Imagine what might have happened if they had taken what is often perceived as a safer path to career success.  What if Bill Gates had chosen a safer path, finished his degree at Harvard, and followed countless of his peers to take a safe and prestigious job on Wall Street?  Undeniably, he is smart and could have been a very productive employee for a big corporation.  Similarly, who knows what Bill Dayton has simply stayed at McKinsey and Co long-term instead of founding Ashoka?

Or what if Shaq had made a different career choice, and decided to be a volleyball player instead of a basketball player?  Shaq is unquestionably one of the best basketball players ever.  And even if Shaq probably has his best basketball days behind him,  few people (apart from NBA pros) would want to play against him on a basketball court today.  But how effective is Shaq's size and basketball experience on a volleyball court?  Well, we found out last summer.  Indeed, Shaq decided to do a TV show in which he challenged other professional athletes in their own sports.  In one episode, he paired up with Todd Rogers (Beijing Olympics Gold Medalist in men's beach volleyball) to challenge Misty May and Kerri Welsh (Beijing Olympics Gold Medalists in women's beach volleyball) in beach volleyball.  On a volleyball court, Shaq's size was an asset when he was at the right place at the right time, but most of the time, his size was a liability.  Despite benefiting from a lot of help from a Gold Medalist in that sport, Shaq lost 2 sets to 0 to Misty May and Kerri Welsh.  As a result, Shaq had to jog on the beach in a pink speedo, which was entertaining in itself...

What does this episode tell us about career choices?  There are many brilliant professionals that are essentially Shaqs on a volleyball court.  There are many professional hungry to get business done better that have simply not found the responsible career they are best at yet.

Maybe it is your case, too.  Are you a Shaq on a volleyball court or are you a Shaq on a basketball court?

The good news if you are a Shaq on a volleyball court: you have an amazing array of options available.  Unlike professional sports where athletes have very little time to make their marks, careers are much more flexible.  For instance, the older you get, the more experiences you have, the more transferable skills you possess that you can leverage to make a career move.  I know that first hand, as a neuroscientist, turned career coach, turned social entrepreneur.  So if you are wondering what career choices you have beyond going to an uninspiring job for the foreseeable future, you might be surprised by the number of options that are available to you!  See our previous posts on professionals who have successfully transitioned from traditional jobs (i.e. volleyball courts) to positions that enabled them to get business done better (i.e. their basketball court) here.  See also here and here for more tips and resources on how you can clarify and best articulate your career goals and get to your own 'basketball court' faster.

If you feel like Shaq on a volleyball court in your current job, know that you have more career choices to feel more like Shaq on a basketball court than you think!

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