Turn Your Challenges into Superpowers

Martin Yate By Martin Yate June 4, 2019
Turn Your Challenges into Superpowers

​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column. 

 I'm having problems at work. I have a good degree and the right certifications. I work hard and long, get along fine with most people and achieve more than most, but I still have problems. I get passed over for promotions and have recently recognized that I'm getting a reputation for job hopping. I know that's bad news, but I get bored and disheartened when I don't get a job I'm qualified for. I'm told I talk too much and don't think before I speak, so people don't think I am politically sophisticated. Because I get bored easily, and on a long project I can lose interest, my focus wanders and the quality of my work suffers. I got into HR because I wanted to make a positive contribution, but I'm wondering if maybe HR isn't right for me.

Why go back and pay for a second education when you won't be happier in another profession? The problems will likely stay the same because they lie within you. You could have happiness and success right here in HR.

Now, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, but I've been studying and writing about optimizing workplace behavior and performance for more than 30 years. I also had similar problems when I was in school: bouncing off the walls, never able to sit still, talking too much and more.

That's because I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I have difficulty concentrating or sitting still.

Yet I ended up making my living in career management and have been helping people make changes to get through the rough spots. I have written 85 editions of 18 books that sell well year in and year out, all over the world. And I have two patents for inventions that were sold on TV. How can this be?

I credit my ability to succeed to four challenges that have become "superpowers":

  • Self-awareness followed by action. When I recognized my challenges, I spent time learning how best to respond to them and turn them to my advantage.
  • Ability to focus very intently. It's a strength that's not often mentioned but can be a result of having ADHD.
  • A high energy level. I can do more and stay at it longer.
  • Superior ability to multitask. This is a highly desirable soft skill.

Having ADHD is not easy. Inside my head it's as if I have 15 TV screens on at all times, all on different stations, and it can be hell. But I consciously channel this behavior, and it becomes a superpower. I consider it to be a form of multitasking, which is a strength in the workplace.

Back when I was in training and development, I must have showed and lead discussions on the film "How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life" about a hundred times. And eventually, a thought slowly penetrated my head: "OK, you get bored easily, and your mind skips around. So if you can recognize the signs of boredom coming on, and you know your 10 most important priorities, then change to one of those priorities, and you'll naturally switch back to the one you were bored of soon enough." What was a curse suddenly became a magic wand.

I feel your pain and wonder if you just might be one of my tribe. Don't leave HR; we do important work. Your current problems, when properly channeled, can become strong assets.

If you think the problems that cause you stress and unhappiness might be something you need help to manage, I suggest you do some research:

  • The Internet is a good place to start. Reputable mental health websites can help you identify your symptoms.
  • Get professionally diagnosed.
  • Understand why you do what you do and how best to control and channel your energy.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!



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