Whether You Bloom Early or Late, Make the Most of Your Talent Stage

Put the words “talent” and “stage” together, and most of us might think of prodigies in the spotlight, performing amazing feats. As peers, teachers, parents, and managers, we seem fixated with gifted programs, with advanced placement and fast tracking through our educational and professional life.

Rich Karlgaard’s 2019 book Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement turns this attitude on its head. Karlgaard applauds the early bloomers, but also advocates a balanced perspective. He argues for a staged development of gifts and talents through our life and career arcs. According to Karlgaard, while we might enjoy rapid processing and extensive memory in our 20s, we develop executive and management skills along with empathy in our 30s and 40s. Wisdom and equanimity appears to kick in only during our 50s and 60s.

Tips for Your Teens and Twenties

How, then, should students and entry level professionals translate these findings into charting their talent paths? To backtrack, do we or should we even know enough to define what our talent might be during the teens and twenties?

Perhaps it makes more sense to practise a “playlist” concept, where you are building your academic and professional repertoire, one track at a time during your 20s.

By developing a learning and communication mindset, you can actively receive knowledge and seek feedback from predecessors. Participating in internships, exchange programs, hackathons, and mentorship programs will enable you to exercise your processing and mnemonic skillset, creating a robust foundation for career building in the 30s and 40s. This, of course, requires a huge leap of faith and external support mechanisms.

Your Support Systems

First, as students and early professionals, you need to take a step back and assess who you are. What are the possibilities you want to explore? Develop your curiosity quotient first, and then worry about a specific career “fit.”

How about your friends and family? To support you in this exploratory adventure, they need to get out of a conveyor belt mindset.

To adapt Sheryl Sandberg’s analogy, they should appreciate that your talent development journey is a jungle gym and not a straight-up ladder in your formative years. There is plenty of time for managerial decision-making and even wisdom as your career trajectory matures.

Own Your Talent Development

Taking ownership of your talent development is probably the most important step you will take as a student and early professional. Create a journal or use a book such as What Color is Your Parachute—or its related appto keep track of your career ideas and professional priorities. Revisit and update this regularly—say, on each birthday or New Year’s. And seek help from a career counselor or mentor to make sure you are always pointing to “true North” in your professional path.

There is no standardized formula for talent development. Along with acknowledging the many metrics of success we need to be wary of the fallacy that early achievement is the best possible life outcome.

Whether you bloom early or late, make the most of your talent stage.

My own talent playlist has included the following over three decades: career mentoring, professional skill development,  MBA teaching, and digital communication advising. What career trajectory or talent development questions would you like answered through Stoodnt online sessions?

Image credit: HR Technologist



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