Succeeding With “No Special Talent”

Hey Anita,

I’m graduating from high school and don’t know what to do with my life. I’m not very good at book learning, so college isn’t for me. I’d rather go on a hike than sit inside and study! How can I find a job where I don’t have to sit at a desk all day? But I don’t really have any special talents. Is it possible to be successful without a college degree??

Hiker walks on Mountain TrailDear “Mountains to Climb,”

Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” Everyone has an aptitude for and interest in something! If you haven’t already, make an appointment with your school guidance counselor. He or she can conduct some career tests and based on the results, point you toward appropriate vocational schools or community college certificate programs. Check out this Main Street article for ideas on outdoor careers that may suit your personality. Another great resource for adventurous grads is, a site that lists seasonal jobs in and near national and state parks and resort areas.

Zero_TalentI spotted an inspirational graphic, “10 Things That Require Zero Talent” on LinkedIn recently; it’s a good reminder of those “soft skills” that contribute to success that don’t relate to occupational expertise or educational degrees. I’ve written about many of them:

  1. Being on time. Check out my post, Snoozer or Loser, for tips on punctuality.
  2. Work ethic. If your parents didn’t instill a strong sense of job performance values, do it yourself with these pointers.
  3. Effort. Remember what it was like on Day One of Your New Job. Expend that kind of enthusiastic effort each and every day.
  4. Body language. There’s no need to discard your Body Language Consciousness after the interview. It’s a skill that can improve your everyday work life.
  5. Energy. Remain Alert All Day and don’t let Energy Vampires drain you.
  6. Attitude. Here are the Top 10 Attitudes Employers Look For.
  7. Passion. Targeting a Job that aligns with your passion makes it easy to get up each morning.
  8. Being coachable. Being open to advice, ideas, and instruction from a mentor, whether seasoned or youthful, is key not only for those just entering the job market, but employees at every stage of their careers.
  9. Doing extra. Going above and beyond is bound to earn some Compliments at Work.
  10. Being prepared. From Interviews to Exit Strategies, advance planning pays off.

Readers: Can you give an example of how one of these “zero talent” qualities helped you advance on the job?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Todd Hicks
    Jun 02, 2016 @ 02:26:51

    Whether or not your guidance counselor says you have a good physical aptitude, go to trade school anyway. I wish I hadn’t been too discouraged to try trade school just because my guidance counselor said I didn’t have the aptitude for that. I have nothing to show for my college degree, partly because employers today demand that you have direct experience for the job, sometimes a year or more.


  2. jawan jackson
    May 31, 2016 @ 13:39:12

    google jobs where you can move around a lot like zoo’s or recreation parks.


  3. Tiffany Lieu
    May 31, 2016 @ 13:12:41

    Personally, I don’t know how to tell people to get started with looking for work. I began looking around for work after having a high school diploma, some college education, and doing employment readings. I contacted employers through their ads or reached the temporary agencies. If you are not familiar with the employment world, employment agencies can be a good area to discover certain employment rules. The first time I stepped into the agency, they gave me a bunch of paperworks to read over and sign as well as offered the chance to ask questions when I was uncertain of certain things.


    • anitaclew
      May 31, 2016 @ 14:33:06

      Tiffany, Your suggestion of working for a temporary staffing agency is a great idea for someone who is unsure of his or her career path. It offers a little taste of working for different companies in varied industries.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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