Find the Intersection of Passion And Profit (spreadsheet included!)

You’ve seen the above diagram before, right?

And you thought to yourself, “Yes! That makes perfect sense. I’m on the road to career enlightenment! Except… I don’t know what fits inside that magical Venn diagram.”

Before you head back to square one, I’ll give you an actual method (yes, there’s even a spreadsheet involved) to get yourself on the road to the sweet spot.

Solving the Diagram Dilemma

The diagram is hard because it’s fluffy. How do you know what pays well? What comes easily to you? Let’s bring those abstract concepts down to earth by figuring out what each one really means:

What pays well :: which skills are employers actually seeking?
What comes easily :: which skills do you find yourself using most often?
What you love :: which skills make you smile when you’re using them, or which ones put you into a flow state?

Do you see the underlying thread there? SKILLS. Skills employers needs, skills you have, and skills you enjoy using.

Now you’ll understand why we need to turn that venn diagram into a skills grid.

Turning the Venn diagram into a skills grid

What’s a skills grid, you ask? It’s a chart with the skills needed for a given career on one side, and the ways you could acquire those skills on the other. Like this:


SPECIAL BONUS! Download the NEXT skills grid right here.

Gathering the skills

How do you find a list of in-demand skills? It’s easier than you think. The Department of Labor keeps a database called O*NET that lists all the skills needed for thousands of jobs.

To collect the skills, visit Search or browse occupations, and for each job you’re considering, look at the Knowledge, Skills and Tools/Technologies sections. These are where you’ll find those in-demand skills for the Y-axis of your grid.

Recollecting your experiences

Once you’ve inserted the skills in your grid, it’s time for some introspection. Think of times when you’ve gained or used the skills you just found — e.g. you exercised public speaking skills when you gave a presentation at work, and you demonstrated creativity by volunteering to art direct a play. The categories along the X-axis will help you brainstorm.

Three rules for filling in your grid:

1. Don’t censor yourself. If it comes to mind, write it down. Hated the experience? Definitely write that down. (We’ll talk about why later.)

2. Don’t make it your mission to fill in the entire grid. If you have three or four (or more) experiences in some cells but none in others, that’s actually helpful (yep, we’ll get to that, too).

3. Put a smiley face beside the experiences that make you smile, laugh or otherwise feel happy when you think of them. Conversely, put a sad face beside the ones that make you grimace or groan out loud.

What you’ll learn from your grid

Now you’ve finished your grid. You have a very busy page full of memories and emoticons. Congratulations! Let’s see how it helps solve our original problem:

  1. Which skills are employers actually seeking? You populated your grid will with skills that employers are actively paying for! Problem one, down.
  2. What do you find yourself doing most often? Remember I told you it was okay if you had tons of experiences in some cells but none in others? The volume of experience inside each cell tells you the types of activities you find yourself doing time and again. Are you at all surprised?
  3. What do you enjoy doing? Now look at the clusters of smiley and sad faces. Which skills continuously make you happy? And which ones make you want to hit yourself in the head with a brick? Again, any surprises?

One more time — get your printable NEXT Skills Grid here! Fill it out, and share your aha moments in the comments.

After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009 with degrees in journalism and psychology, Kelly Giles used Twitter to find her first job as a social media strategist. She delights in any project at the intersection of marketing, design and psychology. You can often find her creating compelling user experiences, crafting psychologically and visually appealing cover letters, or helping her sales friends figure out how to get on their prospects’ radar screens. Follow her on Twitter and Pinterest!


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