If you want to remain employable as the world of work changes rapidly, it’s important to remember three things. Most of the things you learned in college are of very limited use, the majority of future jobs do not exist today, and a large percentage of jobs within organizations remain unfilled because there aren’t enough people willing and able to do those jobs. One of the things that will help you futureproof your career is to figure out whether you have the potential for jobs that you haven’t done in the past. Then you need to be able to demonstrate that potential to others. But first, you need to figure it out yourself.
Here are three simple questions that, according to science, will help you work out whether you are likely to excel at things you’ve never done.
Does the job excite you?
Hundreds of scientific studies have shown that career interests tend to be correlated with career abilities. This means that you are more likely to become good at something if it actually interests you. So, even if you don’t have the right skills for a given job yet, being interested in that job will increase the likelihood you’ll be able to acquire them. Along the same lines, academic reviews indicate that you are much more likely to be good at something when you are intrinsically motivated by it, and engaged or enthusiastic with that role.
That said, the correlation between interests and abilities is not perfect, so following your passion is not a guaranteed formula for being a high performer. Rather, when your passion aligns with your abilities, and those abilities are in turn aligned with an in-demand job, can you be sure that you have what it takes to excel?
Is the job a good fit for your personality?
Your personality is the sum total of your predispositions and habits, how you think, feel, and act most of the time in comparison to others. In other words, it’s what makes you, you. Academic studies show that personality can predict your career success, too. For example, being an extrovert gives you an advantage in jobs that require a great deal of interpersonal relations, such as sales, customer service, and PR jobs, but being an introvert will give you an edge when it comes to working independently, focusing on detailed tasks for extended periods of time, and listening to others (as opposed to being the center of attention). In that sense, talent can largely be seen as a particular personality in the right position. If you find a job that is a natural fit for your style and behavioral preferences, you can turn your personality into a powerful career-building tool. Of course, it is perfectly possible to learn and develop skills for jobs that are less naturally suited to our personality, but it will require more time, effort, and won’t always be enjoyable.
Is learning your superpower?
Your willingness and ability to grow and adapt your skill set to the changing landscape of work is one of the most important ingredients in the success of your career. That’s because it predicts your likelihood to become better at anything, including jobs that don’t exist yet. It’s made up of raw mental horsepower, as well as curiosity and drive.
People who are quick learners, interested in people, ideas, and novel experiences, and who persist even in tasks that are not intrinsically motivating, are much better equipped to acquire new skills. In turn, they become good at things they have never done before. This is why so many employers are making curiosity one of the key hiring criteria, and why it’s so important to demonstrate that you’re a quick study during job interviews.
One final piece of advice: The best way to put these three principles in practice is to get feedback from others, particularly people who know you well and who are comfortable providing you with their honest views on your potential. While working out whether something is interesting or not is easy, you will better understand what new jobs really require from you, how your personality differs from others, and how much you’re able to learn quickly, if you ask other people to tell you. To paraphrase the poet Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”