Want to know the formula for a perfect career?
Your perfect career - getting paid to play - is found at the intersection of 3 factors - the things you're good at, the things you love doing, and the things that there is a demand for.
In this picture, that's the area of overlap of the 3 circles. Here lies your perfect career - or in fact a number of them. These careers are ones where you're doing something you enjoy and you're good at – and you're doing it in a way that provides something people want.
This may sound like a high mountain to climb but it isn't really. In fact this diagram is not to scale. Firstly, there is a lot more overlap in reality between what you love and what you're good at (it just gets messy to draw). This is because it feels good to use your talents and also because if something feels good, you tend to do it a lot so you get even better at it.
Secondly, with enough creative thinking, there is often a way to do these things you love in a way that meets a demand - now more than ever thanks to all the new opportunities provided by the 'net.
What goes wrong?
Unfortunately far too few people are working in that magical intersection of three, getting paid to play. What often happens is that we get stuck with only 2 of the 3 factors we need. Here's what it looks like:
- Good at it + people want it (but you don't love it): this is your ordinary unsatisfying (even if sometimes well paid) career. You can do it and enough people are willing to pay you for it but it doesn't light your fire. You can tell you're in this zone when others tell you you have a good job but you still feel unsatisfied. And when it comes to getting the next job or next piece of work (if you're self-employed) it feels like a struggle to win it. Sometimes this can be solved simply by focussing on winning only your favourite projects or jobs in this area. And sometimes you need to make a complete career change.
- Good at it + love it (but people don't want it): you're good at your work and you enjoy it but find it difficult to get paid well for it. You know you're in this zone when people's response to what you offer is "that's nice" or "that sounds really interesting" but people rarely actually offer to pay you for it. The solution is to look for something that people are already hunting for that you can provide while doing those things you love.
- Love it + people want it (but you're not good enough at it yet): you know you're in this zone when you love what you do and there's a market for it but you're not winning the work. This often happens when you make a change into a new field. It takes time to get good enough to stand out from the crowd. You can shortcut the process by being careful to focus on an area that uses as much of your natural talent and previously acquired skills as possible.
Whatever change you need to make in order to achieve your perfect career of getting paid to play, you can get started right away. Take the next step towards it by launching a 30 day play project - to do something you love and you're good at and that you think people will want from you.
Remember that the journey to your perfect career is not something you'll discover by sitting and thinking about it, it's something you have to play out, one project at a time.