Striking the Perfect Pitch

Friday night at our house is movie night. Which you might think would mean we’re up to date on the latest. You’d be wrong. Our 10 year olds far prefer seeing movies they’ve seen many times before… and so the family polling this past Friday resulted in a victory for Pitch Perfect 2 (often it’s a tie between the second and third in the a capella series).  

While I usually look forward to the singing (seriously, how is this possible without instruments??) this time a different scene struck me. It’s when the Bellas are at the final night of the Retreat, sitting around the campfire. They’re all within a month or so of graduation and Becca, like lots of future grads, talks about all the pressure she’s putting on herself, her worry about failing and belief she could figure it out on her own – but realization that it’s tougher than she thought.

If you’ve seen the third movie in the series (and if not warning – spoiler alert) then you know she decides to pursue becoming a music producer. Since we know this doesn’t work out all that well, it does strike me as interesting that she chose this path when you watch her character. It’s pretty clear throughout the series that where she lights up is when she’s performing, not behind the scenes.

Sure, this is all fiction but how often do the rest of us make similar mistakes? We pursue the type of job that sounds cool without taking the time to understand enough about ourselves to figure out the types of environments, projects, and people we’re with when we’re at our best. By applying some career prototyping to our decisions – mini experiences based on what we’re curious about followed by reflection on what we learned about ourselves in the process – we can craft career decisions that have a greater chance of feeling like a fit.

Real world career prototyping

The artist with her cake creation

We tested this approach out this summer with our daughter – a low risk proposition to be sure, since she’s a few years away from having to think about careers. She’s been drawn to being a wedding cake maker. My husband pointed out we didn’t need until she turned 14 to see if this could be a fit and suggested we put career prototyping to the test.

We went down to the the local bakery owner to see if she could come hang out and watch their bakers make wedding cakes one morning. He was completely on board and she did way more than watch. She got an amazing hands-on education where she not only got to help out the bakers but created her own mini-cake in the process. She returned full of excitement and pride in sharing her creation. Had I not learned to ask a few deeper questions, I would have signed her up for the next cake making class.

But after a few questions about which parts were fun and which not so much, it became clear that what she REALLY liked wasn’t so much the making of the cakes but the decorating of them. In retrospect, this should have been obvious – she’s the kid who creates random things from tape, paper, cardboard, egg cartons, you name it. The whole following directions thing – as any cake recipe requires – is less up her alley.

So we now have a deal. I’ll live up to my last name and she’ll decorate the desserts that I make. She pitched me perfectly to do more of what she likes and less of what she doesn’t.

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