Saturday, August 29, 2015

Five Career Tips for Mensans

I thought you might like an advance look at my next column in the Mensa publication, The Intelligencer.

Five Career Tips for Mensans

You've always been told you're smart, and on your confident days, you believe it. But as you've probably become aware, intelligence doesn't guarantee success, let alone happiness.
These suggestions may help.

Go for a longshot?
Standard advice is, “Be realistic.” But the risk-reward ratio of aiming high is better for Mensans, at least for those that don’t suffer from undue procrastination.

Perhaps you might want to help understand the genetic basis of intelligence. Or create a 3D virtual exploration of the Amazonian rain forest. Or develop an ethics curriculum that will actually change behavior. Is there a big goal you’d like to tackle?

Of course, especially if you’re self-funding your project, you’ll have more staying power if you can control your expenses, the largest of which is housing. Might it be worth searching for below-market digs? For example, when I first came to expensive Berkeley, I beat the bushes until I learned of a widow who didn’t want to live alone in her mansion. I lived there for, in today’s dollars, $400 a month.

Whether it’s on a world-changing project or not, do try to get to work with people who are intellectually strong and who bring out the best in you.  

Don’t hide your intelligence
People who will think less of you for showing all your smarts aren’t worth worrying about. The right people---employers, friends, and romantic partners—will appreciate you for it.

Of course, that includes putting Mensa on your resume. Some unwise people will think that's elitist of you. Or they may think, "If you want to be around smart people, do it with smart colleagues in your discipline."  But wiser people will understand that there’s nothing wrong with, indeed everything right about, wanting to spend some of your time around smart people outside your discipline.

Of course, just because you’re letting your intelligence show doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to keep others from feeling inferior. So, for example, make suggestions in a way that allows others to save face. Rather than, “Here’s an idea,” try, “I’m wondering if this might be a good idea. What do you think?”

A caveat: Especially if you’re working among less capable and more insecure folks, you risk being sabotaged. They may tell bosses and others about your errors in an attempt to get you devalued. So consciously assess the risk-reward ratio of offering a solution: How likely are you to be correct and, if you're wrong, what’s the risk?

Network less
Workplace performers that aren't the brightest crayons in the box may need to network a lot because, in applying for jobs, they're unlikely to be, on the merits, the best candidate. To compensate, they attempt to develop emotional connections that make employers ignore their lackluster capabilities. But for you, networking, which is often time-consuming, may not be the best use of your time. Sure, if you enjoy in-person or online schmoozing, fine. But the standard advice to network, network, network, may apply less to you.

You can afford to dabble
For most people, dabbling risks career failure. In today's era of specialization, it's dangerous to be a jack of all trades, master of none. But you are smart enough to gain sufficient expertise in multiple fields. As a result, your dabbling may even give you an advantage. So when you reach that point of diminishing returns in learning something, you can feel freer to jump to that next thing you're curious to explore.

Give yourself a break
Being smart is a burden. You’re expected to always be awesome. Of course, you won’t always be. You’ll say something stupid or emotionally unintelligent. You’ll want a break from using your brain and just want to do something mindless. Give yourself a break. Be human.

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