3 Questions to Find Your Career Sweet Spot

by Shana Montesol Johnson

Trying to figure out what work is best for you? Answer three questions and find the “sweet spot” where your answers intersect.

In sports like tennis, baseball, or golf, there is such a thing as a “sweet spot” – the area on the racket, bat, or club where hitting the ball will have maximum impact. At the same time, the shock of the impact is minimal – so the athlete doesn’t even feel a vibration when she hits the ball.

Great results, with a minimum impact on the player.

So, is there a “sweet spot” when it comes to our choice of jobs and careers, too? (While I’m the last person who could be considered a sports buff, I do appreciate a good sports analogy!)

I think your job or career “sweet spot” is at the intersection of your answers to the following three questions:

  1. What brings you joy? What are you so passionate about and fascinated by that you want to eat/sleep/breathe this area of interest, idea, cause, or issue?
  2. What are you great at? What are the things that you do outstandingly well? What activities have you noticed come easily to you?
  3. What will people pay you (enough) to do? What marketable skills and abilities do you have that will earn you however much you feel is “enough.” (Note that your definition of “enough” will change at different  points in your life.)

A helpful way to visualize it is as a Venn diagram of overlapping circles. By the way, this concept is based on the work of Jim Collins in his now-classic book on organizations, “Good to Great,” and has since been riffed on by many others.

If you’re struggling to figure out what kind of job is the best fit for you, or even if you are pretty content at work but would like a career tune-up, I encourage you to answer these questions for yourself and find your sweet spot. I’ve developed a handy worksheet that will help you do that – download it here.

For me, the sweet spot is helping international development professionals and expats get clear about what’s next in their careers and lives. I do sometimes coach people who work in other fields, yet I feel drawn to work with international development professionals. It allows me to blend my twin interests in international development and personal/career development. And what can I say, many of the people I’ve met in international development are some of the most interesting, admirable, enjoyable, and inspiring people – why wouldn’t I want to hang out with them? It also feels great to use my skills and strengths to do this work in a way that feels natural and fun – through one-on-one coaching, group facilitation, and writing. The fact that my clients seem to value my work with them is gratifying, humbling, and fulfilling.

We talk about the sweet spot in the “What’s Next?” group coaching program. (In fact, the worksheet I’m sharing here is adapted from the program.) Group members typically find this exercise very helpful in illuminating potential next steps in their career.

If you’re feeling stuck in your career and would like to get clear about what’s next, I invite you to consider joining our newly forming “What’s Next?” online group. Registration is open through September 12. Details can be found here.

If you’d like to hear more about the program, ask questions, and get a feel for the online group experience, join me for a free 30-minute call on Wednesday, September 5 at 8:30 pm Eastern (US), which is Thursday, September 6 at 8:30 am Singapore/Manila time (GMT+8). You can call in directly from Skype. Sign up below to register for the call (which will also put you on on the list to obtain a recording of the call if you can’t make it live). I look forward to speaking with you!

Tennis image courtesy of Michael Duxbury.

“Sweet spot” Venn diagram courtesy of Shana Montesol Johnson‘s fledgling graphics skills.

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