How to find the Sweet Spot in your career

It’s starting to be spring in Wisconsin and in my world, that means the beginning of basketball on the backyard court.We built the court the spring my oldest son, Tim was in the 5th grade. Tim and Dan had outgrown the swing set in the backyard and since we live on a hill, the normal spot for a basketball hoop in the driveway wasn’t an option.

My husband, Bill, calculated the area needed for a half court and marked out the area. We hired two older gentlemen who were long time pros in the concrete industry and they leveled the area for the court, poured the concrete, and mounted the basketball hoop. We hoped it would be something our boys and their friends would enjoy. It was probably 1998 and ever since, that court has been a mecca for young boys, now young men, playing pick-up games, horse, or just practicing their shots.

The pace picks up in the spring because Wausau hosts a large Gus Macker 3-on-3 tournament and attracts huge crowds to the area. Our group of guys almost always has at least one team in the Macker so the court stays busy through the early part of the summer.

I’ve always had a fondness for basketball and will go out to practice shooting now and then. I’m still not a bad shot but can’t compare to these young men. One day, I decided to challenge one of the regulars, Tyrus, and just see if I could even hit the hoop.

Tyrus was a little surprised that a middle-aged woman could shoot at all and would want to but he was good-natured about it and agreed to play with me. There is a spot off the side of the basket that generally I can make every time and that day I did. Tyrus called it my sweet spot.

A sweet spot is a place, often numerical as opposed to physical, where a combination of factors suggest a particularly suitable solution.

This all came to mind when in the fiction book I was reading, one of the main characters said, “She has come to the Sweet Spot in her career. I remember those times”

J.T. O’Donnell wrote a post in 2009, 3 Steps to the Career Sweet Spot, where she says:

The goal? To develop skills that will make us professionally agile and keep us employable. Not every start-up succeeds, but any good serial entrepreneur will tell you it was their failures that taught them the most and helped them move on to greater success. So, if you want to find your career sweetspot, start thinking like a business owner. It’s time you got your career’s business plan in order – the future of your professional success depends on it.

As J.T. says, you have to define your career first. Many people, when faced with either a desire to change their career or are launched into an unexpected and unplanned job search, fail to consider this first step. You need to have a plan, a target, a goal. An undefined goal will have you swimming in circles and for sure you will not reach your target.

And you need to define what differentiates you from the pack. Once you get this nailed down, you can proceed to find out what options there are and if you need more education or training to get to your goal which may mean that you have to search for funding sources for that education. J.T. goes on to talk about launching or revising your plan, much like you would with a business plan.

Adrianna Llames in her post, “Sweet Spot: the Intersection of Passion, Purpose, and Skills” further defines the career sweet spot and how to get there:

When passion, purpose and skill intersect you find the ultimate career sweet spot that makes it easy to commit yourself to success.

Taking these two views, I suggest that you look deep inside yourself, “What sets you on fire?” I often as my clients, “if nothing was in the way, you had no barriers, what would be your dream job?” We often shelve those dreams just to get by but that results in unhappiness and makes you less likely to achieve success in your career or find that career sweet spot.

As difficult as it is to plan in this uncertain economy, I also suggest that this is the perfect time to think about your career sweet spot. Where is your passion, what do you feel is your purpose, and what skills do you have that could make your dream a reality?


  1. Michael Lunsford on March 17, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Wow, what a great early morning post to read with my coffee. You always pull me in with these great stories and follow up with a good life lesson. Unfortunately I don’t have a basketball “sweet spot” but I can now see how that concept applies to other things in life (including career and entrepreneurial).

    Like that basketball sweet spot, a career sweet spot is also something very difficult to discover on your own. You have to have someone with you in the game.

    Great stuff, Julie.

    • Julie Walraven on March 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm

      Yes, collaborating with someone with the skills to help you think through the process makes a huge difference. Could you do it alone? Yes, But it would take much longer to accomplish.

  2. Melissa Cooley on March 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Julie: I like how this post talks about how it takes time to develop the sweet spot — it doesn’t just appear in an instant. One has to persist despite the failures and obstacles.

    • Julie Walraven on March 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm

      Exactly, goes with your post above too… you cannot expect to win in an instant…

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