Do you use your talents at work?

There’s a Monty Python sketch where Michael Palin’s character is an accountant who’s gone to a careers advisor played by John Cleese. The accountant says he’s fed up with being an accountant. He wants to be a lion tamer. The careers advisor says he doesn’t suit such a career. Couldn’t he work his way towards lion-taming via say, banking.

I had the misfortune of going to a careers advisor once. They asked me some dumb questions about exam subjects and then asked what I wanted to be as they had lots of pamphlets on various career paths. Well the answer to that was obvious to this 16 year old. I wanted to be a rock star. So I told her. She shook her head and said I should take this seriously. I was taking it seriously and I asked her where the relevant pamphlet was. There wasn’t one. She advised instead that I join the YTS (the Youth Training Scheme designed for non-academic pupils a bit like an apprenticeship). I said no thanks.

That careers advisor is in our heads, holding us back from what we really should be doing and being ‘realistic’ and pushing us into mediocrity. Think of the jobs that you’ve done and that most people do. They all have job titles, but let’s be honest, most of them mean absolutely nothing. When you or people around you were children I bet you wanted to be a clear-cut interesting profession like an astronaut, doctor, film star, or vet. No-one wanted to be a marketing assistant or sales manager. How did they become them? There’s nothing wrong with any particular job, unless the person doing it isn’t satisfied and is capable of doing more. Then it’s a cage.

Most workplaces don’t know how to deal with talent, it gets in the way. They can’t reward it or promote it and it doesn’t fit into a neat box. That’s why you can’t rely on your job or others to give you satisfaction without you doing something about it yourself. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you got paid for doing what you loved doing? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we found the courage to find a way to make that happen?

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7 comments on “Do you use your talents at work?

  1. This is so true! I’ve done lots of office work and am now working diligently towards & in my true calling as a voice actress and loving every minute of it. It’s a joy to get up in the morning, and plan what I’ll do as part of, or towards my career that day. I wish joy and blessings for all. Follow your dreams. Ayd’s right! Cheers!


  2. Ah yes, the school careers adviser. “Go to Sandhurst, be an Army Officer” he said. Genius. This to the lad who was nearly expelled six times for rule breaking and disobeying rules. When that didn’t work, he suggested being a lawyer. The problem is that none of the really brilliant careers, the ones that involve creativity and spark and iconoclasm are never on the list.


  3. How can I get paid to knit??
    To be fair, I run the school choir and get involved in many art projects through school – we are about to embark on the Sheffield Children’s Festival project Bigger Bloom using iPads to create digital images, and I have also run dance workshops for the last five yrs with Danceworks. So I weave it into my day amongst the given curriculum 🙂


  4. Nice post. I love the Monty Python reference. It’s worth noting that the career counselor (John Cleese) did ask the accountant (Michael Palin) what made him feel qualified to become a lion-tamer. The accountant proudly answered that he had a lion-tamer’s hat. So maybe the counselor’s suggestion to ease into a lion-tamer’s job by moving into banking as a first step wasn’t so bad (instead of getting mauled by a lion right away).

    At least John Cleese’s career counselor had the curiosity to ask the question. It is very unfortunate your heavy-handed, disinterested school careers adviser didn’t bother to engage you in conversation such as this:

    You: “I’d like to be a rock star!”
    Adviser: [with genuine interest] “Oh, really? Do you play an instrument? [which one?] Do you sing? … Wow, you must really enjoy performing for a crowd …” and hone in on the personality traits related to a rock star or any performer and exploring those further. Imagine what a productive, relevant, helpful conversation that would have been for you (and her)!

    I am a strong believer in Myers-Briggs testing to help identify personality types. It’s plain to see that a rock star or keynote speaker would invariably be an extrovert (“E”) while someone else might dread being alone on a stage and prefer working alone…and so on. Personality traits revealed by Myers-Briggs can then be mapped to those careers that need and value those traits the most, as presented in the very good book “Do What You Are” by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron.

    That said, Ayd, you may not be a rock star, but as I gather from your website, you use many similar traits, presenting (“performing”) to live audiences about creativity and innovation, in creative and innovative ways. Well done, I’d say. 🙂


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