We as parents are laser focused on ensuring that our children’s education sets them up for success. We search and fight for opportunities for them, hoping they will find contentment in their adult lives. But, what do adults in the workforce think of when they look back on their K-12 years?
A 2015 article in Psychology Today written by Katharine Brooks, Ed.D. titled, “How Does Your Giftedness Affect Your Career?” highlights ten traits common among gifted adults in the workplace. Most of them can be recognized as the adult version of what gifted children experience: restlessness or boredom, needing challenging work, and tending toward perfectionism. Sound familiar?
A trusted friend and co-worker, Maelle, is such an adult, and was gracious in sharing her thoughts on getting through life, first as a gifted child, and now as a gifted adult. We met approximately 14 years ago when she was a relatively recent college graduate, working in her first “real” job in information technology for a large company. Several years ago, we worked together on the same small team. It was immediately apparent her thinking was on a different level. You could almost feel she was several steps ahead in every technical discussion. The intensity of her concentration was profound.
But first, how did she get to that “real” job?
Maelle attended a school district which traditionally has strong GT services. Her K5 and second grade teachers realized she was ahead and provided advanced work. In third grade, she was officially identified as advanced in reading/writing, math, science, and art, although there was no advanced art path in the district. Her mother, however, enrolled her in any art experience she could find through the local art museum and pottery shops. Through sixth grade, she was in a group of 2-5 children for several hours every day to work on advanced math, science and language assignments. By all accounts, she was several years ahead in terms of ability, especially in math, but was not grade accelerated.
Middle school can be a tough time of life for all kids. It’s a time when somehow no one feels like they fit in. Maelle’s mother saw she was having a more difficult time than most. She decided that for two years, Maelle would take Honors classes, but not be in the GT program. Maelle has no negativity about this decision; rather, she feels it helped prepare her socially for high school. (This is a good reminder to all of us parents -- to see our children as a whole person, and adjust however we think is best for them in the long run).
There was no GT programming in her high school, but Maelle excelled, taking every AP and Honors class she could fit into her schedule.
I asked her what the school district could have offered that would have helped her prepare for her post-secondary life. She suggested moderated small group discussions with other students like her in which they could discuss ideas, such as having to balance not making peers feel inferior while not hiding their own abilities.
Maelle struggled, as many gifted high schoolers do, with selecting a college major when she could succeed in so many areas. Her advice now is to know your end goal and your non-negotiables, then use them to narrow down your choices. For her, that meant finding a technically challenging occupation with job availability and growth potential. Computer Science fit the bill.
She says her biggest transition came when she started working full-time after college. Workplaces have a much wider range of peers’ ages, experience and skills than any educational setting. She was promoted more than once over her peers with significantly more years of experience because it was clear she could succeed solving the toughest technical issues and completing high-profile projects requiring meticulous work.
This did not always make for smooth team relations, but she adjusted along the way. Here are some things that seem to work well for her :
Her advice for gifted adults struggling in a workplace, and feeling that their talents are not fully being used, is to find a passion. For the past ten years, Maelle has volunteered in a number of animal rescue organizations, taking on social media and website administration, implementing standardized processes to increase revenue, and designing new bird foraging toys. This involvement gives her fulfillment and gratification.
How is she handling the workplace these days? The short answer is: very well. Her adjustments have certainly helped, and her teammates have come to respect her abilities. As a co-worker, I can attest to her recognition as the go-to resource when a difficult issue or project arises, and that whatever she works on will be efficient and error-free. And, you can count on hearing her enthusiasm when she tells you about her latest animal rescue volunteer experience too. Her passion and talents extend to both the workplace and to her life outside of the workplace, creating a perfect balance.
Many thanks to Maelle for agreeing to this interview, and for her candidness.
Mary Budde, Treasurer
WATG Board of Directors
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