A Recipe for Career Happiness
Photo courtesy of Edoardo Costa.

A Recipe for Career Happiness

Written by Brenda Scott

Topics: Work

I’ve been working on a blog post about how to write effective resumes as a multipotentialite. With so many skills and backgrounds you could highlight, how should you choose what to feature on your resume and what to leave out? It’s a question that confounds many a multipod, and one that deserves some attention.

While working on this post, I considered some suggestions put forward by our community. I thought about my own experiences as a job applicant and as a college advisor and professor. I also decided to interview some experts. So far I’ve interviewed two wonderful deans from Duke University.

In one of these interviews, I got much more than I bargained for. The advice I was given gave me an “aha!” moment. I wanted to share that with you, particularly as it segues beautifully into the subject of résumés. So this is sort of a prequel of a blog post, if such a thing exists, to the post on résumés, which will soon follow.

An Interview with an Academic Advisor

I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Dean Milton Blackmon from the Academic Advising Center at Duke University. Having previously worked for him, I knew he was a brilliant man.

I wasn’t aware until our interview, however, that he’s a wonderful multipod himself, and that one of his areas of specialization is adult education. Nor did I know that he’d have words of wisdom to share that would affect me personally. 

Know Thyself

One of the main points Dean Blackmon made during our conversation was that, before deciding on a major, a career, or what to put on your resume, it helps to understand yourself.

In Poor Richard’s Almanack, Benjamin Franklin wrote: “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know oneself.” But knowing yourself is what you’ll have to do if you want a successful and happy career.

Dean Blackmon encourages students to major in whatever interests them, pointing out that college majors don’t determine our careers. He says, for instance, that with a degree from a liberal arts program, you can do anything with any major. And while studying whatever strikes your fancy, you get to learn more about yourself and your preferences.

This is good news for those of us with many interests, because many programs in the US require only ten out of the 34 courses you take to be in the subject you major in (I would love to hear whether things are similar in other parts of the world; feel free to share in the comments). With a system like this, there are plenty of opportunities to explore other interests alongside the one you select as your major.

The next part of our interview seemed like a cartoon moment, when a lightbulb goes on over someone’s head – in this case, mine.

A Recipe for Career Happiness

Dean Blackmon pointed out that only about 30% of people are happy in their careers. Another point he made was that you can either try different careers and learn by trial and error, or you can know up front that you are well-matched with a career. Keep in mind that this does not restrict you to a single career; rather, it helps you see what career(s) might be most enjoyable and fulfilling. 

Your interests aren’t the only thing you should take into account when choosing a career. Beyond knowing your interests, Dean Blackmon suggested four areas for self-examination. Focusing on these four areas will help you understand yourself and make better choices when looking at career options:

  1. Personality
  2. Interests
  3. Values
  4. Skills

He emphasized that, unlike in choosing a major (where interest is arguably the most important thing to consider), these other three factors are very important in the choice of a career or careers. Why is this?

Well, if you know you’re an introvert, you’ll be able to rule out careers that involve a lot of human interaction, such as being a classroom teacher. If you know you’re big on telling the truth, and that you could never defend a guilty person, you could rule out becoming a defense attorney. And if you’ve recognized that writing is an area of weakness for you, you’ll know not to consider becoming a translator.

A Simple Method

Dean Blackmon’s method for getting to know yourself ahead of choosing a career path is the simplest and yet most profound method I’ve ever encountered. It’s also very well suited to those of us who have many interests.

This formula hit home for me because it considers more than just interests and skills. In my own career, I’ve tended to focus only on these last two. I’ve worked both at the intersections of my various interests and in individual fields but, although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my various jobs, I have yet to find a job that completely works for me.

After speaking to Dean Blackmon, I feel as if I now know the path to follow to find the perfect career or combination of careers for me. I hope his words of wisdom are useful for you too.

In the sequel to this post, which will be on resume writing, we’ll discuss how to pull these areas together.

To be Continued . . .

Your Turn

Do you find this career recipe helpful? Which of Dean Blackmon’s four areas have you neglected to consider?

brenda-bioDr. Brenda Scott is a fine art photographer, writer, and cellist. Originally trained as a musician and organologist, she has worked as a curator of a small musical instrument museum and her Stagville: Black & White exhibit has been displayed at the North Carolina Museum of History and is currently on tour. She enjoys teaching and holds degrees from the University of Oxford, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Auburn University, and the Academy of Art University. View her work at brendascottarts.com or follow her on Twitter @brendascottarts.


  1. Marijke says:

    Very insightful article! It always benefits to know yourself, in many ways and fields.

    Greetings from an introvert classroom teacher who loves her job. ;-)

  2. Francis says:

    I don’t know for all of you, but it seen for myself it’s really hard to find who I am. When I look at me, I saw a form with to much face to count.

    I was thinking about how to market myself for finding client for getting in the freelance world. At some point, I have the impression I have to much and, at the same time, to little to give.

    But, this article give me a direction I should have take a long time ago. Stop to think I know myself and began the trip to rediscover who I am.

    At others who are in a similar situation, don’t give up. You will find a way.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Thank you for the hopeful words, Francis. I agree – it is hard to know oneself. I think that is one of the most difficult but most rewarding quests in life. I’m glad this helps give you direction. The interview with Dean Blackmon was very much an “Ah-ha!” moment for me, and I wanted to share it with everyone in case others found it useful. For years I pursued just interests and skills but did not take into consideration these other factors of values and personality. What a balancing act.

      Thank for your comments, Francis. I wish you the best of luck.

  3. Nuka says:

    knowing myself is not an easy task and surfing through three careers, two majors and four languages until now is not helping too.

    but aside from self pitting mode I am currently on I think it’s essential to find peace in the first step about being a, I rather say Renaissance person. as this may prepare enough clarity for the next challenge; knowing myself.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Sounds like you are doing really well, Nuka, with 3 careers, 2 majors, and four languages. That sound exciting. I imagine, though, with so many skills and interests, finding “the career” for yourself could get frustrating. I know it has been for me, and I don’t know 4 languages. :)

      I think as a Renaissance person, you might find a number of careers that would suit you. What struck me was that I had never before considered all 4 factors given me by Dean Blackmon. This really helped me, and I hope it helps you, too.

      Best of luck with it all. Keep us posted.

    • Vee says:

      I laughed a bit when I saw your comment.
      I just finished my second degree (history and urban planning), I have a third, unfinished degree in translation, been hopping jobs, speak perfect English and French, can get around in Spanish and Italian and just took a semester of Mandarin and I’m sitting there thinking….What do I do now?

      Knowing yourself is sooo not easy, especially when it changes over time. From my 20s, I would have never thought that I’d get out of Urban planning at 30 and say that I prefered environmental and community planning. Considering I have PDD and hyperautistic hearing, I have been strangely becoming more and more draw to people…on a part-time basis…

  4. Dana says:

    This is an article that I have almost been waiting for my whole life! No, seriously. This is one question that I have been asking myself over and over again, as to what career I should choose that can keep me happy as a multipotentialite and yet satisfy the general societal norms of careers.

    Here is a question that I have. Say you have options which are aligned quite perfectly to your interests, abide by your personal values and you almost have the skills to match it. Your personality may not be fully in phase with the rest of the matching.

    Let me rephrase this differently. If there is an option that completely aligns with most of the attributes in those four areas, but you lack some skills or lack on the personality front, how do you motivate yourself to develop those attributes of the area?

    Also, say that you believe strongly in a set of values that you do not completely follow, how do you motivate yourself to follow them actively in order to take up the possible option considered based on it’s matching with a lot of attributes of the other areas?

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Great, Dana. I’m glad this post is useful for you.

      I think it is all part of a balancing act, putting together these 4 areas. Dean Blackmon told me that one can always gain skills, and it is easy to know about personal interests. Given that, I think that if you almost have the skills you could work on them, and perhaps use the old cliche, “fake it ’til you make it.” Chances are your skill levels are very high but you are so good at things that you hold yourself to exceptionally high standards. I’m not saying fake something you don’t have, but chances are you’ve got the skills and can gain the rest along the way. Perhaps you have them now but feel you should have more. That often happens to me.

      As far as the personality piece goes, I think if everything else is working together and you want the career badly enough, you can make it work. It reminds me of Harry Potter choosing Gryffindor. (If only we had a sorting hat for our careers!)

      Regarding values you hold but don’t completely follow, your question reminds me of one I asked a priest once. I asked how people who do bad things could call themselves true believers. He said, “Imagine how bad they’d be without their beliefs. Their beliefs help them to be better and to strive to be better.” Whatever your faith, my point is that I think my priest friend had a very good point about holding beliefs and trying to live by them bringing us closer into alignment with them. As to how to motivate yourself to to follow them more actively, I wish I had an answer for you. I’ll ask my priest friend next time I speak with him and keep you posted.

      Best of luck with it all. Please keep us posted.

      • Veronica says:

        “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
        ? Mahatma Gandhi

        I recently came across this quote last week, and it really struck a chord in me as I am about to be promoted into a position that I feel I am not quite ready for yet and still need more training. But everyone else around me believes in me. I wanted to share this with you Dana since you mentioned about not feeling like you have the necessary skills. I’m currently learning about meditation and how everything comes from within, and how it is “all mental” and it relates to Brenda saying “fake it til you make it” exactly the same! Just wanted to reinforce that we just have to believe in ourselves and we can have, be and do anything we want!

        Good luck on your journey!

  5. LCJinRoslynPA says:

    I’ll be looking for your next post in my inbox – at 62, and under-employed, I find that my widely varied academic and work background is NOT helping me find a job that pays the bills (much less a career for this last third of my life!). I find that while I can see the connections (I don’t apply if I don’t!), employers can’t. I need a way to pique their interest, I think, without having them see me as “difficult”. It’s enough to get past the agism and sexism, and their worries about hiring someone who worked for herself for a long stretch.

    • Aria says:

      I’m in this same boat at 50 — & have actually been in since my 40s.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Thanks, LCJinRoslynPA. I hope the resume post(s) coming soon will be of help to you. Many fields are changing even as we are changing ourselves. Finding the right fit is not always easy. I wish you all the best. Please keep me posted.

    • Nancee says:

      Sounds like the story of my life (re: underemployment and diverse background), except that I’m entering the fourth decade of my life this year. I feel like years have been wasted. It seems like folks don’t get those who are the intellectual and generalist/multipotentialite types.

  6. Johanna says:

    I feel that its so hard for people know who they really are, because we´re so fed by the media in how we should be to become successful and happy persons. I think that you need to keep media at a distance, and choose those areas that you feel is ok with you, instead of letting everything in. Yoga has helped me a lot getting to know my self again. For some reason it makes you find the core of what is you, and it effects your body, mind and soul.I can really recommend this for everyone.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Johanna.
      Great points about looking inward rather than letting media affect us. I’ve also found yoga very helpful, not only at helping me know myself, but also in shutting out the world, even for a short time. Great suggestion. Thank you.

  7. Isa de Grood says:

    Hi Brenda,

    Thank you for your post!
    In response to your question as to how school systems work in other countries, I am doing two master degrees at Dutch universities and the system is very different.
    I did my bachelor in cultural anthropology and development sociology in Amsterdam and I definitely prefer a coherent disciplinary focus as opposed to many different majors. My impression is that the majors-system allows a sneak peek into varying disciplines but does not go as in-depth as I like or need to go.
    That said, I’d love to do five different bachelors! In reality this is not always possible, as you’ve probably experienced yourself in the US context.
    I have committed myself the past year to a master called ‘Asian Studies’ which implied time and again, that it is ”interdisciplinary”. I found that it is non-disciplinary: we get to read historical/ anthropological texts, but no economic, political, geographical or other disciplinary texts. In addition the methodology is unclear, or I’d say absent, which really confuses me as to what is expected of us. I am not aiming to give off a negative view on “interdisciplinarity” (or majors), but to argue that the term “interdisciplinary” is often sloppily and too easily thrown about.
    I wonder how a different system could actually allow real interdisciplinary studies.
    I agree with going to a more basic level of who you think you are (not) and work from there to find out the best career paths. I could not imagine myself as working in the financial sector for instance, and I think I need to work with people and have the possibility to be creative. Yet, that is still a really big sector; the biggest, I’d say. Also I wonder if most people do not have a script or an image of themselves created over the years, of how they’d like to be. Perhaps this image interferes with considering and trying careers and studies that do not fit with the image but might prove more rewarding.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Isa de Grood.
      Thank you for telling us how the Dutch system works. It’s too bad that your Asian Studies master’s program is not as interdisciplinary as you had hoped. I hope it improves soon.

      I enjoyed my interdisciplinary studies degree in the USA very much: a history of the arts. It combined art history, music history, and archaeology in order to prepare me to work in the field of organology (the study of musical instruments), but I also enjoyed my organology degree in the UK. Ultimately, my love of the programs resulted from the mentors I had. I designed my interdisciplinary major under outstanding mentors, and they helped me keep on track. My mentors in the UK were also outstanding. When I taught and designed courses, I found this still to be the case – courses, majors, programs, classes all can be made great or terrible by those involved.

      You make a great point about people having a script or image of themselves that could interfere with trying new areas. Has anyone else run into that? I feel instinctively that this could happen, but I do not have any real world examples. Anyone?

      Thanks for chiming in here. Excellent input.

  8. Helen says:

    I totally agree with the importance of those 4 areas. My troubles with this are that I find it very hard to know myself – my values and personality seem to fluctuate quite a lot, I’m interested in so many different things and my skills are varied. Plus even with a good idea of all of these I think it would be possible to select a career and only find it was right for me in the right organisation, and equally be happy in a different career if the organisation fitted my values and personality better. I hope that makes sense!
    Regarding University, I am English and here we had to select 3 subjects to study for A levels (16-18 years old) and then 1 subject for University. So for example if you want to be a Doctor you need to know that at 15 years old to choose Sciences for A Levels in order to study medicine at University. And if you don’t know what you want to be as an adult when you are 15 (and I still don’t know now!) you still have to specialise. And for me I was told to choose subjects I was good at (rather than interested in) and subjects that ‘go together’. I wanted to do Biology because I found it interesting but was told it didn’t go with English Literature and French. That was 20 years ago so maybe it is different now. Clearly this education works for some people but didn’t suit me. I think it would be better if everyone worked for a few years (from 18) in several different jobs to find out more about the working world and themselves before deciding what to study at University!

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Helen.

      I believe that people change and evolve over time in terms of their interests, skills, values, and even personality. This makes these factors moving targets in a way, but I hope that over different periods of one’s life, it is possible to know oneself across all of these areas. Do you think you are fluctuating as you grow and live your life? Or is it over short periods of time? I know I’ve changed over the years, and sometimes looking at what areas have changed are a big help to me.
      Thank you for the information on British universities. It is a very different system, isn’t it? I’m so sorry you didn’t get to do the subjects you wanted, because they didn’t ‘go together’. I always thought that the early specialization, while great if you knew what you wanted to do, was hard on those who still had exploration to do before making these decisions.
      When I did an advanced degree in England, I felt fortunate to have done a degree in the USA beforehand, allowing me to take many different subjects as well as my major courses. On the flipside, in England I was very grateful to get to specialize and jump right into research in my DPhil. The research demands in the degree were far more extensive than US programs I knew of at the time, based on the assumption that we had just spent 3-4 years in a very specialized undergraduate program.
      While I was there, it seemed that the undergraduate programs were more like master’s programs I’d encountered in the US. I’m sure others have different experiences, but this was what I saw at the time.
      I hope with AS levels as well as A levels now there have been an improvement. That change was just happening when I was there.
      I agree that having a gap year or years in a working environment might really help.
      I hope it all turned out well for you, though.
      When I was in the UK a politician I admire met with a group of Americans and told us that it is easy to go to another place and look back on your own country and see all of its flaws. What he asked us to do was not to merely criticize but to come home and bring with us better ways of doing things that we learned abroad. This is one reason I love communicating with such an international group here. I learn from all of you.
      Thanks for joining in here.

  9. Great article!

    I own a business so I am often giving career and resume advice to college-age applicants. Since I have expertise in brand, I help them understand their own personal interests and brand as a way to find what they might want to specialize in. I use what I call The Asterisk (http://www.placeholderllc.com/i-like-you-just-the-way-you-are/) to point them to unusual intersections of their interests and aptitudes.

    I like the additional thoughts here of personality and values. Values are particularly important to ensure they seek not only a career, but a culture fit in the places they work. We would never hire anyone, no matter their talent and skills, if we didn’t think they aligned with our values and would support our culture.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Rachel.
      Thanks for sharing The Asterisk. It looks like a very useful method of personal inquiry. Great points about brand as well.

      I’m glad you shared your thoughts on hiring and values as well. It’s important for applicants to think of both sides, the application side and the hiring side. I was told when applying for my first academic post that it is more about “fit” than anything else. By the time universities get to the interview stage, all of the applicants are qualified. What they want to see is, would the applicant fit into the department.

      Thanks for your great input.

  10. Mike says:

    One of the things I run into is I thought I knew myself and for 16 years I enjoyed my career choice but now I am questioning everything and I am unsure as to who my true self is. When I think I have it figured out it makes me question whether I am being honest. There is no confidence anymore.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Hi, Mike.

      Personally, I have changed over the years, so a job that suited me for a decade is no longer a good fit. Perhaps that is what is happening to you? I think we grow and evolve over time, particularly as multipotentialites pursuing so many different interests and skills. For me, looking at areas in which I have changed has really helped. I like to keep in mind the Mark Twain quote, which always makes me laugh:

      “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

      I know the quote is about the boy growing up, but I do remember what it was like as a kid, in my 20s, and in my 30s – things change, and not just in terms of “growing up.” It is so exciting to keep learning.

      Please hang in there and keep us posted.

  11. George Cassini says:

    Hi, take a wrong desicion is better that doesn’t take anyone, could be frustrating I know but the sum of the frustrations gift you with the strength for the nextone and so and so ; live is TRIAL AND MISTAKE, succesfull give you just a satisfaction moment and you can sleep on it the rest of your live; don’t looking for succesfull look for experience that is the richness of to be alive.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Great point, George Cassini. And I would add that for some people, living for the sake of gaining experiences is the mark of the greatest success. Success has many definitions and, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

  12. Joe says:

    Know thyself.
    Hard as steel or diamond.
    There is the rub.
    I agree, this is the place to start, and to continue.
    The end is insight ; )

  13. Linzi says:

    Self knowing is being in a strong place, empowering for sure. When I worked out my values I realised that alongside my strengths (via Stength Finder) that I really was That Person living my life. Now when I just don’t feel right about something I look to see if it’s compromising my values. I recently resigned from a job where this was so. That job was horrendous for me yet I learned a lot about myself from it.

    I agree with 4 elements of self knowing. I am now clearer than ever what I have to offer the world. Though now I’m in a void of ‘who’d want me as I’m so much my own woman’. Tried self employment and it’s almost bankrupted me as well as becoming deeply miserable of failures.

    Take time to BE in this moment is mind space.

    Thanks to all at Puttylike, Emilie and Brenda for article interview. Linzi #pausemomentu

    • Brenda Scott says:

      You’re welcome and thank you, Linzi.

      Thanks for pointing out StrengthsFinder. I hope that’s useful for others as well.

      Congratulations on your escape from the compromising job. That takes gumption. Perhaps self employment with a person to advise on business might work? Anyway, whatever it is you find as your next endeavor, I hope it is wonderful for you.

      Please keep us posted.

    • Nancee says:

      Oh, yes. I was going to mention StrengthsFinder, but y’all beat me to it! :) I found out about it a couple of years ago, but never really gave it a chance, thinking that it was one of those tired assessment thing-a-ma-jiggies, until late last year. I wish I had known this many years ago! I wasted my time, allowing myself to be pushed around by people who thought they knew what was best for me. I got into lines of work that I had the skills for, but they DID NOT fit my personality and values. I always knew that personality and values mattered as well, but just didn’t know how to find something that would include them. Knowing my strengths is a reconfirmation of what I’ve always known about myself.

  14. Rebecca Batty says:

    Every now and then a piece of advice comes along that simply resonates and inspires me to action.

    Thank you for this! Much appreciated ;)

    • Brenda Scott says:

      You are very welcome, Rebecca Batty! I am so happy to share this information from Dean Blackmon. He is a wonderful man.

  15. Deer Azza says:

    that is helpful
    I have been ignoring value point but now I can see clearly it is priority for me but I didn’t notice before
    thank you :)

  16. Great article! I think another poin to help you find the right career path is knowing what you need to feel you get out of the job. I’m learning that right now and it’s taking me in a direction I would have never imagined!

  17. Jose Siandre says:

    What if knowing thyself is not who we want to become? What if we want to change our beliefs? I would consider myself a bit of an introvert, but I want to become much more than that. I want to have human interaction. That’s not to say that I don’t like being alone sometimes. (Like now..) And, I’m also not saying that it’s not okay to be an introvert or anything else for that matter.

    What I am saying is that we shouldn’t rule ourselves out of certain careers just because of our own personalities. That is, if we want to get out of our shells or “comfort zones”. Yes, it’s a much harder road to follow, but if it was easy then I myself wouldn’t feel challenged and would eventually get bored with that pursuit. ~Jose — http://www.JoseSiandre.com

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Great points, Jose Siandre.

      I think if one wants to change, it is important to know where one is starting. That will make the path easier.

      Thanks for your input. I think it will really resonate with some folks.

  18. nora says:

    I recently joined a course about leadership and storytelling. To start, the course emphasized on what they called “self awareness” which is of-course knowing oneself, before we can be leaders and can communicate our story. In order to for others to believe in us, we need to know who we are and to convey a consistent message.

    what was actually impressive is to know that today’s learning is going deeper and deeper by encouraging people to knowing themselves and to be true to themselves instead doing what makes them likable or successful.

    Thanks Brenda for this and I look forward to reading the sequel!


  19. Brenda Scott says:

    You’re welcome, Nora. Thanks for your input as well.

    What you said about knowing oneself rather than doing what is likable reminds me a lot of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits and his character ethic vs. the personality ethic.

    It sounds like the course you are doing is really great.

    Please keep me posted.

  20. Marina says:

    Great recipe and a wake up call to keep playing around and searching within yourself !

  21. George says:

    Interesting. Even helpful. My first career i did it for financial security, my second for my values, i am getting ready for my third one when i can finally tick all 4 areas of self exploration.

    Thanks Brenda


  22. Brenda Scott says:

    That’s great news, George, and so interesting about your different careers. Please keep us posted and all the best in the new career!

  23. Kate says:

    I enjoy this article and love the content on this site. Personality, interests, values and skills all have a fundamental part to play in what direction we take however….

    I strongly identify with being an introvert yet throughly enjoyed being a classroom teacher for a 2 year stint overseas. I think multipotentiality is about people challenging themselves to ‘get out of their comfort zone’ – yes we should have an idea of our ‘preferences’ to guide us- but labels should not prevent us from exploring options. We might surprise ourselves.

    Secondly as someone who is strongly guided by my moral principles I too, studied and considered a career in law. We recognise under the rule of law is that everyone is equal before the law and a person on trial is innocent until proven guilty (by the court). A defence lawyer’s job is to argue the facts to get the best possible result for their client. If they outright know their client is guilty but wilfully defended them as innocent: they would be making a misrepresentation under oath: Perjury which could land the lawyer in jail as well as being struck off.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your content in general but it’s important not to set ourselves limitations and fuel lazy stereotypes.

    • Brenda Scott says:

      Great points, Kate. And certainly my goal is not to fuel lazy stereotypes but rather offer suggestions for thinking about career options. I agree the we must challenge ourselves and yet, particularly as multipotentialites, I feel we are often faced with additional challenges of having interests and skills in many areas. This post was meant to be helpful. I agree with your statements about the law in theory, but I fear that is not always what I have witnessed in practice. If only life ran more to theory or fairness, but as I have been told, the fair only comes once a year, and that’s in October.

      As for teaching as an introvert, I agree. I’ve taught for over 25 years as an introvert. It is challenging, but I’ve loved it.

      I certainly did not mean that we should not challenge ourselves. But I do think Dean Blackmon made valid points about considering ideas beyond interests and skills when considering career options.

      Thanks for your feedback and your points about not giving up on challenging opportunities. I completely agree with you on that point.

  24. Costanza says:

    Unfortunately in Italy you cannot chose your college courses. We have some tematic areas and we have to chose 1 among 2/3 different courses. If you hate all of them, doesn’t matter. 3 exams are at our choice but if you want them to be outside of the faculty list of courses it’s a bureaucracy nightmare.
    We don’t have major and minor. You get the degree in what you enrolled for. Or you don’t, like me, because despite that that was the Bachelor Degree I “needed” to do what I wanted, the courses were boring and useless and I felt like I was losing my time.

    At the moment I’m doing what I love, being a Digital Marketing Specialist, but as a freelance and that in some ways is not what I need.
    I love to be free to work whenever and wherever I want, to sleep until 11 am and than work until 11 pm if I have to, stay at home with my dog and work in sweat pants and shirt and so on. But I’m also a disorganized person who loses track of time, awful at keeping track of invoices and payments, often absent-minded (I’m a multipod, I do whatever I want to do at that exact moment!), and I can’t work if things aren’t clear to my mind. Luckily I have a freelance colleague with whom I collaborate and he is much more focused than I am, we put up a project management on Asana and we keep track of what we have to do and when.
    But staying at home still feels wrong and like I’m missing out life out there. I would love to get an office so I would have to get outside the house, but is too expensive for the time being.
    Any suggestions?

  25. Brenda Scott says:

    Hi, Costanza.

    Thanks for telling us about the system in Italy. I’m sorry things didn’t go as you had wanted, but I am so glad you are loving your work now.

    As for getting out more but not being able to afford an office, have you considered coworking spaces? Or even taking a laptop and working in different locations on some days?

    I wish you the best of luck with it all.

  26. Helen says:

    Hi Constanza,
    In England there are places where freelancers can work together in a shared office space. Do they have that in Italy too? Or do you know anyone who has space in their office you could occasionally share? I totally understand what you’re saying. Is worrying about missing out a multipod thing? I worry about that a lot!
    Best of luck with everything!

  27. Sarah W says:

    Like so many of you I have multiple degrees and kept thinking that if I got just one more it would lead me down a defined career path. So I chose things not from an interest perspective but from some misguided strategic one! Fast forward 25 years and I too am an under-employed 50 something with a stack of qualifications through which I drove myself and ended up with Chronic Fatigue. This has given me a LOT of time to review who I am and I am finding my way back to my first love, coaching, which I’d jettisoned for brighter, more sparkly opportunities which cost me so much more than money. For me this has been a three year process of surrender, much of which has not been comfortable and all of which has been necessary. I am now able to see much better how my skills, knowledge, interest, values and most importantly, passion can enable me to create the kind of job I want.

    Thanks for a great, thought-provoking piece Brenda.

  28. Helen says:

    Is there a single human who didn’t take their personality and values into account when choosing a job?

  29. Victoria Ward says:


    I’d like to just pick up on something here. It’s this statement:

    “If you know you’re big on telling the truth, and that you could never defend a guilty person, you could rule out becoming a defense attorney.”

    This statement is inaccurate and I’d like to explain why.

    The statement made is based on the pop culture reasoning that defence attorneys have to defend clients who are ‘obviously’ guilty and therefore that, when they make a case for that client’s innocence in court, they themselves are being dishonest.

    This reasoning comes from a lack of understanding of the justice system and the defence attorneys role in it.

    Defence attorneys and (here in the UK) solicitors and barristers, exist as a part of any fair legal system to ensure that the accused gets to put forward a defence.

    If a lawyer believes their client may be guilty, it is irrelevant. It is not for them to decide.

    It is for is for a jury to decide if someone is guilty having considered all the evidence.

    The lawyers job is to put forward to very best defence they can based on what their client instructs them.

    What would the justice system look like if lawyers acted as judge and jury when a client asked for representation, and declined them on the basis that they thought they were guilty?

    This decision is left to judges and juries for good reason, in a system designed to be just.

    On the other hand, if a lawyer definitively knows their client is guilty (e.g because their client has told them they are), then certainly over here, they are obliged to stop representing them. They have a professional obligation not to mislead the court and so making statements of innocence on the behalf of someone who they knew to be guilty would violate their professional ethics.

    I’m sure some defence attorneys are dishonest. Some. Like in every field.

    My partner is a criminal barrister who regularly works for the defence. When he tells people this they react as if he’s just revealed he’s a mercenary cut throat. He is in fact someone who passionately believes in justice and in all people being given a fair trial.

    Greedy, unethical defence attorneys makes for good TV. But I’ll bet you that the majority of defence attorneys are some of the most honest people you’ll ever meet. People who passionately believe in justice, and who play a vital role in ensuring if by ensuring people get a full trial. Innocent until proven guilty. Proven being the key word there.

    I really hope that, if you got this far, you found that all helpful and interesting.

    Many thanks,


  30. Kate says:

    Entirely agree vic

  31. Nina says:

    “Well, if you know you’re an introvert, you’ll be able to rule out careers
    that involve a lot of human interaction, such as being a classroom teacher.”

    Ummm. No. I think someone here doesn’t understand introversion. I’m an introvert, and I have been a very successful teacher in the past. Why? You know exactly which hours you have to be “on”. You prepare beforehand, you go on, perform, and then you can recover in the evenings and on holidays. A lot of performers (actors, singers, etc.) consider themselves to be introverts, except for when they are on stage. (Beyonce comes to mind). Teaching can be seen as a form of performance.

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