Friday, April 02, 2010

Talent-based career choices versus knowledge-based career options.

Chin Yong who has his own blog, commented on my presentation, which can be found here:

I think it's worthwhile talking about this here as a full blog post.

My presentation in bar-camp highlighted ways in which employees can perform work at the higher end of the value chain, moving from mechanical work to service oriented face-to-face work and finally to knowledge-based work which involves manipulation of symbols to solve problems for the company they work for.

After the presentation, Chin Yong asked a really good question.

How should political work be categorized ?

Chin Yong touched on a very good point because one category of work which I did not elaborate on during my speech is talent-based work. Politicians, performers, sportsmen, artists and designers often fall into this category.

Talent-based work is hard to fit into my model of self-help because of the unpredictability of the pay-off. In talent-based work, remuneration functions in a broad pyramid-like structure where work at the entry level is paid below that of perhaps some mechanical workers. At the upper echelons of talent-based work, you could well be paid millions a day. Just imagine how much a struggling musician is paid busking in Orchard road MRT compared to the pay Lady Gaga gets after every public appearance. The difference is huge and defies common sense and explanation.

When a person has to make a decision to join talent-based industries, a prerequisite is very often passion. But almost everyone else in this industry has passion too, so the X-factor which makes all that difference is still natural talent coupled with an intense passion to pursue a calling.

Just how do we develop talent can also be a difficult problem. Authors like Malcolm Gladwell recommends 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become a world-beater in any endeavour. Imagine getting into an industry where everyone is willing to put in that number of hours of deliberate practice in the industry as well. So you will need to ask yourself : where do you stand on the talent score-chart ?

My current personal opinion is that between knowledged-based work and talent-based work, choose knowledge based work because it's at least a more predictable way towards financial independence. You could be wrong about your personal talents and you may even underestimate the personal sacrifices needed to become someone, like, Rain, who has a fairly sad personal history.

But publicly, it's not very practical for a finance author to tell people to shelve their dreams of becoming a mover and shaker in the world of the Arts or becoming an International King of Pop.

There will always be one Lady Gaga to give aspiring stars some hope and prove finance authors wrong.

Anyway, this is where my thinking has been stuck at. There is still a lot of conventional wisdom when parents tell their kids to study hard, get a professional degree first to get that backup plan in place before pursuing a high risk career move like that in the Arts.

But do share with me if you have a better alternative.