Two of my HR friends, Laurie and Matt, recently had a good discussion to students on about having a career in HR. In summary, Laurie thinks HR is not a profession you should start out early, while Matt thinks you can have a career in HR right out of the gate after graduating college. Then, I read a series on why engineering students need the humanities (read the article and research here, read the readers’ opinions here). All these articles should be a refresher of the difference between what you’re good at and what you like.
If people ask you what you’re good at, they refer to what skills you have and you have acquired. HR, marketing, finance, and others are a skill. You refine, train, develop, and enhance those skills. One of my numerous pet peeves is people saying they have a “passion” for HR or a skill set. Think about it, you have passion for a skill? I think people confuse the words “passion” and “drive.” Drive makes you do what you’re good at; passion is what you really like.
If people ask you what you like, they refer to your interests and hobbies. This describes who you really are beyond your area of expertise. This is where “passion” should come in.
Going back to Laurie and Matt’s conversation; I side mostly with Matt that in college, you are discovering who you are and what you’re good at. What Laurie has a point that people should follow their passion.
Let’s take for example an artist. The person loves art and loves to paint. However, the people don’t like the paintings, isn’t good with the brush, and can’t break even in their passion. What’s this artist suppose to do? The artist needs a job, but is not necessarily out of the art industry. The artist can work for any department for an ad firm, an art museum, architecture firm or any company that involves heavily on art. If he/she knows what they’re good at, either in HR, marketing, finance, admin, or something, the terrible artist can still contribute to his/her passion in art but in a different setting.
There are two guidelines to understand:
- What you like makes you what you’re good at. Your passion makes you what you drive for. An example: Nate Silver’s love of sports and politics makes him a better statistician/data analyst. In my case, my love of sports, media, and nonprofits makes me a better recruiter/HR professional. If you know a subject, own it and be part of it if you enjoy it.
- In interviews and applications, don’t mention what you like; mention only the “good stuff.” Companies do not want to hear why you like them because anyone can lie they like a company. Mention only what you’re good at differentiates you with the other applicants then mention how and why you’re good in your area.
I hope you understand the difference between what you’re good at and what you like when you network as a representative for your organization or as a job seeker. Any questions?