Identify your strengths: Are you a microscopic or macroscopic visionary?

Business woman climbing career ladder

In life, the proportion of influence in our career matters.

But not in the way that we often perceive it, that is.

Seen from a social perspective in terms of our social status, most of us often perceive the phrase “proportion of influence” in terms of wealth accumulation, fame, size of possession, how high we are working in the hierarchical structures of organisations, how experienced we are in every if not most aspects of our lives, how many (influential) people (read: networks) we know and many more. But the truth is that not all of us will be able to achieve the peaks of most of the abovementioned factors, primarily due to personal circumstances/choice and of course, external factors that are almost always beyond our control. There are individuals in this world who choose not to travel but remain in their hometown enjoying photographs of the world via televisions, radio, newspaper, magazines and the Internet. There are also individuals who choose to work within their current capacity as managers and giving all opportunities for promotion a pass with joy and a sense of acceptance. And yes, there are individuals who choose a life of serenity and thriftiness over a life of riches, fame and glory. In a consumerist society, these individuals are often frowned upon by many as non-achievers and “stagnaters”, the people who settle for less where they could have gotten much more (“if only they have tried”, according to the words of some).

But this is a mistake.

Opportunities abound in most aspect of our lives and places. It usually does not depend on the availability of an  individual’s personal life choices. It really depends on the seizing of those opportunities, which present themselves when they arrive. What this means is that individuals who choose to live within the confines of their own homes and personal comfort level become what I will call the “microscopic” specialists while those individuals who choose to pursue a wider domain of their lives become what I will consider as the “macroscopic” generalists. Depending on our personalities and character, we will – I will say inadvertently – move in a direction that is usually not of our own choosing. For example, some teachers will not choose to become CEOs and vice versa. This is because the qualities that are required of a teacher are drastically different from that of a CEO. This does not mean – in any way – that the job of a “microscopic” teacher specialising in specific subjects pales in comparison to that of a “macroscopic” CEO, skilled in the handling of numerous tasks of highly-different nature (although some people tend to think so). It’s important to note that while CEOs are often portrayed in the media as leading organisations, we should not forget that in the world, there are many more teachers leading students both within and beyond classrooms. While the former may bask in the glory of the media light, we should also celebrate the latter who are contributing their utmost in nurturing and developing our young silently and diligently. Hence, as long as individuals try their best and put in their best effort in their job/profession, they are already fully utilising the “proportion of influence” as mentioned at the start of this article. The concept of “proportion of influence” should not  be considered in the physical sense but assessed within the boundaries of their professions. For example, the value of a teacher who inspires all his/her students in class should be on par with that of the CEO who inspires an organisation, and not beneath (although in terms of monetary remuneration, the former often commands a lower rate, the reasons of which seems unknown).

I believe that all of us are cut out to be in certain profession. The media may promote certain professions based on monetary remuneration, prestige or even popularity but this does not mean that other professions do not have their values. I feel that some of the most important things to consider when deciding one’s career is identifying if one has a calling to a particular profession (which is usually indicated by the extraneous effort that one puts in when one need not have to. That is, going the extra mile), one’s aptitude in excelling in that profession, one’s strengths and talents in contributing to that profession, the feasibility of sustaining in that profession in the long run and the alignment of one’s life goals to that of the profession’s. As can be observed, most of the things that is considered important in this article do not belong in the same criteria as identified by most mainstream media. This is because the criteria used are drastically different.

The term “microscopic” often carries a connotation of specialisation and working on a solitary basis. Some professions that often fall into this category include photographers, writers, editors and many more. The term “macroscopic” carries with it the connotation of overseeing various departments or aspects of a task and the individuals handling the task is often considered to be more of a generalist, both within the context of the work and their ability to communicate with others. Hence, the latter is often given more prestige by the media and is – more often than not – considered a more “people” person, thereby giving them more power than the former (for some reasons, influential individuals are often considered more powerful, although I never figure out why. Much as we humans are social creatures, I believe that there are some “microscopic” professions which require a strong and in-depth solitary of thoughts, of which designing is one of many). With a bit of psychological insights thrown in, males are considered to be more of a territorial individual as compared to their female counterparts. This is the only logical reason I can think of that explains society’s preference for the influential. When considered within the context of the workplace and profession, it can thus clearly be seen why “macroscopic” careers are often given more emphasis and prestige than “microscopic” careers, and this also explains why “macroscopic” professions are more in demand than “microscopic” ones.  What’s regrettable is that there are some job candidates who are pursuing the “macroscopic” jobs for the wrong reasons. Prestige, fame and monetary remuneration should never precede one’s calling to the profession in one’s career choice(s). What’s more important is that one is comfortable in their own skin when working, similarly to aligning one’s personalities with one’s dressing style.

It is very important that we know where our strengths and talents lie. In deciding this, we should not let any suggestions/comments from others influence our judgement. Ultimately, we know ourselves best. When we are working in a certain job/profession, we ourselves are in the best position to evaluate if the career is suitable for us. And I will recommend that we evaluate our careers choices by our suitability in the position based on the level of satisfaction (and I will like to add happiness) that we experience during our terms of employment with the organisation (or if we are working freelance, the times when we are working in the professions of our own choosing.) Our take on our preference for the job may be different from others as they might be using a different set of criteria as benchmarks for assessment. Should disagreement results, we should try our best to enquire about the criteria that others are using and then getting them to see our point of view on prioritising our suitability for the job/profession as the primary criteria (that is, if you agree with me on this). I believe that even if others continue to disagree with us, at least they will understand our perspectives.

At the end of the day, we really do need to take a good self-reflective look at ourselves and what we are good at. There is nothing wrong with working in a “microscopic” position if we are more suited for it. It’s the level of self-esteem and the sense of satisfaction and pride that we derive from our professions that make all the differences. 

For those of us who are adept at working at the “microscopic” level, then we should do the best that we can and excel in the profession. We might not carve out a name for ourselves in this life as compared to individuals working in the “macroscopic” professions, but at least we know – deep down in our hearts – that we have chosen to live our lives right and to the fullest.

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