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Gifted adults and career choices

I work with a large number of gifted adults in my private practice as a psychologist. One of the common themes that emerges out of our work together is the wide range of interests and abilities they possess, which can make selecting a first career, and subsequent careers, challenging because narrowing down the field to just one option can be difficult.

A unique but typical problem that gifted adults all have from a career perspective is that they possess the capability to excel in multiple areas. Gifted adults typically work in one area, but have the ability to change careers and to contribute in multiple ways to other areas. For example, it would not be unusual for a gifted individual who trained as an engineer to later become a teacher, musician, or visual artist. Possessing such “multi-potentiality” can makes narrowing down their choices for a career rather hard.

Most gifted adults struggle with career choices over their life spans because of their diverse passions and skills, and their need to constantly challenge themselves.

Often, gifted adults want to do work that will better society. They need work that is continuously changing, and constantly challenging. Often, they become self-employed or work for a small start-up company to be able to have the freedom to explore the world with a diverse enough range, and at a fast enough pace, that is satisfying to them. They may have to design a career that doesn’t exist yet in order to meet all their needs.

Psychologists can assist gifted adults in their career selection by helping them focus their attention on choosing work that will mesh with their values, provide meaning in their lives, satisfy several areas of interest, and allow them a strong degree of independence.

Once a decision is made, even if several careers are experienced during their lifetimes, gifted adults will need to grieve the choices they did not make, and the opportunities they will never realize, because there just isn’t enough time available to do everything they are capable of, and interested in doing, in one lifetime.

Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta 

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