“James is so restless and energetic. I wonder if he’s hyperactive.”
“Nancy seems to be all over the place. She’s got a dozen projects going at once!”
“Harley does things so fast! He put up a website in two weeks.”
“Marlene is so intense. She needs to lighten up.”
While it’s possible that James is hyperactive, Nancy is scattered, Harley skates on thin ice and Marlene is depressed, it’s also possible that each of these people wears the label, “gifted adult,” often unaware.
Gifted children often lose interest in school – and even get into trouble – because they’re bored.
They are not always “A” students because their minds don’t work in conventional ways. Teachers often don’t know what to do with them.
However, being a gifted child can bring rewards because children are praised and rewarded for learning and scoring high on tests. Adults are rewarded for broader forms of success, which require social skills and personality traits that often conflict with the gifted adult’s nature.
When gifted children become adults, they face unique career challenges, especially if they don’t recognize themselves as gifted.
They might try to fit into corporate life, only to get frustrated. Corporate life rewards qualities like frustration tolerance and conformity. Gifted adults tend to get bored easily and have trouble conforming, even when they want to.
Job environments rarely reward creativity, a hallmark of the gifted, and frequently punish anyone who threatens to color outside the lines. Corporations often resemble football games, where players are rewarded for being in a position to receive the ball everyone wins by executing the coach’s play. Gifted people function better when their game resembles playground basketball, where you can scramble and make plays as you go.
Gifted adults tend to be rewarded when they find themselves in careers and environments that support their abilities.
Examples include scientists, professors in research-oriented universities, authors, and many professionals. Some gifted adults know how to “play the game,” moving beyond unrewarding entry level jobs to reach positions where they can use their gifts.
Unfortunately, other gifted adults remain stuck in jobs where they are guaranteed to remain misfits.
A manager who conceptualizes the company’s problems easily can get repressed by bosses who don’t encourage her to explore these directions. A worker in a dead-end job who lacked the education and social skills that would let him move to a more congenial environment can’t use his mind.
If you relate to these descriptions, you may encounter difficulties not only with career choice but with career guidance.
Career counselors can be intimidated by gifted clients. They are trained to discourage career changers from moving in too many directions at once. They see gifted clients who seem to grasp ideas really quickly but sometimes have trouble translating these ideas into action.
In particular, gifted adults tend to catch on to things so quickly they face two dilemmas in choosing a new course.
First, they seem to be good at so many things, they say it’s hard to choose.
Second, they (and their advisors) often say, “You’re really good at this. Maybe it should be your career.” Aptitude turns out to be a small part of career satisfaction, so it is important to look at the total picture, including personality and style.
If you’re gifted, you probably already have some idea that you’re “different.”
Understanding how you operate can help you avoid, “Why is this happening” questions and reach success on your own terms. Those who read books like Mary-Elaine Jacobsen’s The Gifted Adult often feel relieved: “Finally, someone understands where I’m coming from!”
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