The Dangerous Myth of the “Just Competent”

“Maybe I’m not destined to be really great at any one thing – just competent at a lot of things.”

I still remember the evening when one of my good friends said this to me. It made sense on the surface…this had been his path to date. He’d majored in music in college, done a graduate law degree, and was currently working as a digital forensics consultant (basically the IT version of Bones). He’d been leading an interesting life and able to pursue his various interests, but at the end of the day he felt overworked, stuck, and not particularly satisfied by his day-to-day work.

I was reminded of this conversation later while speaking to another friend, whose very successful career had led him from a software sales job to professional poker to working his way up the management ladder of a mid-sized marketing agency. He had started to feel stagnant and was looking for new opportunities. In the course of our conversation, he asked if I could help him with “defining my personal brand”.

“I know what my strengths are, but somehow when I go into interviews, I’m not able to communicate what makes me unique or how I’m the right person for the role,” he said when we sat down to talk. “I know I’m good at managing an office and a team, and I’m a people person, but if I say that, an interviewer can’t see the real value that I bring.”

At this point, I’d been thinking about this topic for a while, beginning to formulate an idea of how to approach this type of problem, and he was willing to help me test out my theories.

Since then, I’ve come to see just how common this feeling is, even (especially!) among high-achieving, successful people.

I remember telling one of my first clients (a senior sales director at a growing digital agency) about these conversations, and he could definitely relate. “I’m not sure if I’m ready to make a drastic change,” he said to me, “but I feel stuck and not that excited by my work anymore.”

Do these feelings sound familiar?

Over the past few years, I’ve had these (and similar) conversations again and again. And what I’ve realized is that there’s a lot of us who didn’t follow the very traditional career paths (doctor, lawyer, teacher, etc) from an early age, but still have a core purpose that we’re working towards. We just haven’t quite gotten clear on it yet.

I don’t believe that anyone is called to be “just competent” at a bunch of random things.

I believe that we feel drawn to the activities, hobbies, and work that is connected in some way to that core purpose – work that satisfies us on the deepest levels and makes us genuinely excited to wake up every day.

We’ve laid the clues for ourselves at every stage of our lives, since childhood, and if we can take a step back and reframe our life stories with the goal of finding the common threads, it all starts to make sense.

And I’m here to help you achieve that clarity. That’s why I’ve created a framework to help these multi-passionate people regain the sense of purpose in their careers and/or creative work. I even wrote a blog post outlining some of my initial process.

It doesn’t mean that once you figure out what that deeper core purpose is, you’ll stick to one career path forever. You might. But you might not.

Rather, this work is about discovery. It allows you to uncover the guiding principles that until now you’ve been following unconsciously – and to make it a conscious choice.

It empowers you to frame your story with intention, so that when the interviewer says “so, tell me about yourself” you can easily explain why this role at this company is what you’ve been building towards at each moment of your life to this point. It gives you the language to express to your clients why you are the uniquely perfect fit for them.

It’s about discovering your unique story and then telling it.

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How do I know this process works? Because it already has.

My friend who asked for help with his personal branding?

The clarity he gained from this work enabled him to find a new role with a startup incubator as an in-house advisor and mentor – his dream job.

He wrote this about our work together:

“Bridget helped me understand my talents, what intrinsically motivates me, and how I could channel these into actionable next steps. …It was through these conversations that I was able to land my next job and ultimately feel at peace with who I am and what I bring of value.”

My client, who initially just wanted a side project that would give him the fulfillment he was lacking in his day job?

He called me a few weeks later to tell me that he was putting the side project we’d discussed on hold because he had just received a job offer for a role that was exactly what he wanted to do, and would utilize his unique strengths that we identified during our work together. He’d been so inspired by what we’d discovered while working together that he decided to take that big leap into a new career after all.

He wrote:

“Bridget was immensely helpful in helping me really zero in on what I was looking for, even before I knew that I was looking for something. When we started talking, I was successfully working in a career for 10 years, but felt stuck, bored, and unchallenged. She helped give me the tools to hone in on what I really enjoyed in my life, what my core talents and drives were, and ultimately I used what I discovered to make a significant career change that fits much more in line with what she helped me discover about myself. I am beyond grateful for all her help!”

Now it’s your turn.

I’m opening up my process to 5 new clients who feel stuck or stagnant in their career path and want to gain clarity about what really motivates them.

I’m looking for people who may be successful in their current careers but feel that there’s something missing or not quite aligned.

Who used to get excited about their work but lately it’s not feeling good.

Who may have thought, or been told, that they needed to focus more, that they had too many interests, or even that “work’s not supposed to be fun all the time!”.

Maybe you’ve even already decided to make a career change, but you’re not sure of the best way to communicate your unique value to potential employers.

If this sounds like you, I’d love to hear from you.  If you’d like to explore whether working with me would be a good fit, just fill out this form and let’s talk!

Did this spark some ideas about what your core purpose might be? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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