HR Insights, HR Management

The Sweet Spot: Helping Others Find the Inflection Point in Their Career

SweetSpot

I have always been a people watcher.

I watch the way people react while in conversation. I watch emotions. I watch the dynamics of groups and how people respond.

Since I commute to work, I always watch the interaction of people on public transportation. You see the ones who know everyone and everything; you notice the ones who are consumed in thought. You talk with some that always have the “deer in the headlights” look.

More importantly you notice the ones that are eager and can’t wait to get to work.

The “sweep spot” of a career

I notice that on Fridays, basically everyone is in a good mood. Come Monday, everyone reverts back to form — with the exceptions of the ones who seem eager to get in to work. These are the ones that have found their sweet spot.

However I have noticed that those type of people are in the minority.

I gave a presentation a few weeks back and there was this slide that I used that talked about the “sweet spot” of a career. Those two words are the most sought after intersection on Earth. Everyone on the planet is in the throes of finding it. The ones that have found it, well, you will notice them a mile away

This sweet spot is most associated with sports whether it be tennis or baseball. A sweet spot is described as a place where “a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort.” In other words, they are at the right intersection of life. The stars are aligned and everything is in synch. This is their inflection point.

I know of many friends that have started out in careers only to do a 180 and then find their true calling. There is the attorney who always wanted to be in fashion who is now fashion director of a magazine. She came from a family of attorneys and she followed the family calling. However, she also loved to sew and make clothes from patterns. She had a real passion for fashion.

Finding your true calling

She finished law school, then got a corporate job as an attorney — and hated every minute of it! She said that she could not see herself doing this for the next 40 years. So, she decided to follow her dream and gets a job as an intern for a fashion magazine, doing the grunt work with passion. She was then offered an entry level role and years later, she is now fashion director for a major fashion publication. She found her “sweet spot.”

Another friend was told, “Become an accountant and you will always have work.” That was her family’s statement to her as she headed off to college. Graduate with an accounting degree and get a job with one of the “Big Four” accounting firms.

Well, it did not take long for her to realize that she just could not see herself doing this for the rest of her life. She was determined to take her experience to help others find their sweet spot. She is now recognized as one of the top career consultants.

My background was in training and development, and if IBM had not decided to close my division, I probably would have not have gotten into human resources.

Michael Lewis of Moneyball fame gave the commencement address at Princeton last month. The title: Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie.

Here is a guy who majors in art history, gets a job at Salmon Brothers on Wall Street only because, as he tells it. he went to a dinner party and struck up a conversation with one of the wives of one of the big shots that worked there, and she basically demanded that her husband hire him.

Finding your inflection point

After the requisite training, Lewis found himself ludicrously advising major investors how to invest millions of dollars. One to two years out of college and everyone was interested in his thoughts.

This became the basis of his first book, Liar’s Poker which told the story of Wall Street run amuck.

He recalled his college professor telling him as he turned in his college thesis, “Don’t choose writing as a career.”

Now years later, with three books and a movie under his belt, Michael Lewis vividly tells the narrative of how career choices have a lot to do with luck in finding your way. While headed in certain directions, we can get caught up in the current and sometimes that detour will be the defining moment.

Our careers, no matter where we are in the journey, all came about as a result of getting to the right intersection or inflection point and reacting to it.

Michael Lewis refers to this as luck. We make our decisions based on what we are facing.

So next time some person asks for advice and career guidance, remember that they are caught up in the current and are looking for signs of the intersection/inflection point on their way to the holy grail called the “sweet spot.”

Ron Thomas is a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He formerly was Director, Talent and Human Resources Solutions at Buck Consultants (a Xerox Company) and is certified by the Human Capital Institute as a Master Human Capital Strategist (MHCS) and Strategic Workforce Planner (SWP). He's also worked in senior HR roles with Martha Stewart Living and IBM. Ron serves on the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy. He also serves as a Faculty Partner and Executive Facilitator at the Human Capital Institute. He has received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence by the World Human Resource Development Congress in Mumbai. Contact him at ronaldtthomas@gmail.com, or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Ronald_thomas.