Your dream job — and the curse of competency

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Oct 18

Dream jobs are the holy grail of work. Find one and you experience the nirvana of the work world. Pundits, including this one, will tell you to determine what you love to do at work, build your job skills to match up with your dream job, and work to find the people to connect you to your dream job.

But there is this dirty little secret…well, maybe it isn’t so secret. Maybe, instead, it is why so many people don’t believe they can get their dream job. That no matter what they do and no matter how much they desire and plan and work to get their dream job, the dream job just won’t happen.

Why? The curse of competency.

We’re very good at what we do, like it or not

Most of us started off in a job because it was offered to us. Hopefully, out of college or out of work, the job offered got close to what we like to do. But the truth of the matter is that many, if not most, jobs in companies today have to do with products we have no interest in. Think about it. How many people graduated from college with a management degree and thought their dream job was doing actuarial work for some insurance company? Or graduated thinking that derivatives were the cool thing to do in finance?

Passion for derivatives? Passion in working with actuarial tables? Naw. It is a job to do and we do it because it was offered to us.

Then, we get really good at it because we want to do well. We get very competent at the very job that we landed — but didn’t love.

We develop great skill sets at what we do, like it or not

In order to get good, we develop great skills at our work. We get really good at doing the thing we do, whether we like it or not. After all, you need to excel at your work to show how your work adds value to the company. You want to do well because you are always told that you need to be in the top percentage of workers to hold on to the job. You get really good, even if you don’t love what you do.

We get a business network that supports what we do, like it or not

When we work well and promote our career, we seek out like minded people to connect with. We join professional organizations to learn more about our work and be with other people because we are told those people will help us stay employed by knowing what openings are happening in our area of work. We network with the people that can add to our competency, even if we don’t like what we do.

What’s the answer?

We get really good at what we do, we develop deep — and desireable — job skills to fulfill a job need, and we build a professional network that supports our work. And we hate what we do.

To change your career? The longer you go, the worse the curse of competency. The more you want to break out, the harder it becomes to give up the income to move away.

It really is a curse. I don’t have the answers to this one. I just know a lot of people who are incredibly competent in their work — and hate what they do.

How do you overcome the curse of competency?


About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.