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Very intelligent but failure in the workplace?

(184 Posts)
dublinruth Thu 21-Feb-19 13:39:56

I was a very clever child. Scholarships, MENSA, etc. Everyone thought I had an exceptionally bright future.

Except.. my intelligence doesn't really mean anything in the workplace. It hasn't translated to career success. I'm now ten years into my career, doing specialised admin work that bores me silly but pays OK.

Has anyone else found that being intelligent just doesn't translate into being good at work. I feel such a failure and see people I went to school with having great careers and can't help but to feel a huge amount of jealousy.

Has anyone else found this?

nikkylou Thu 21-Feb-19 14:58:01

I kinda feel a little like this and I'm nowhere near as smart!
I did well in school, flopped my A levels a bit due to cockiness but went on and got my degree.
I feel I just can't get a job that sees my potential!
I get customer services jobs easy. But it's so mind numbingly dull.
I don't think I present well which is my issue. When you get to know me, you wonder what the hell I'm doing where I am. But I think at interview they don't see it in the same way.

DippyAvocado Thu 21-Feb-19 15:02:00

I was a bit like that - academics a breeze, excellent exam and degree results, very non-stellar career. I think self-assurance, a good work ethic and a loud voice tend to bring greater success in the workplace. I worry a bit for my kids who are also academic but very reserved.

tobee Thu 21-Feb-19 15:06:49

Hmmm. There are loads of extra factors than just intelligence to getting a good job. All kinds of things, apart from iq, that mean you succeed/don't succeed at work or on a career path.

I was always told I was intelligent but did badly in exams. I was told I was lazy/inattentive. Which might well have been true but, at school in the 80s, there wasn't much in the way of diagnosis of learning difficulties.

On the other hand, my dd, who is 23, hasn't managed to find work despite having gone to one of the top universities in the country and has a degree in languages, highly sought after subject. She is diagnosed autistic and has associated anxiety.

movinggoalposts Thu 21-Feb-19 15:07:40

That’s me too. It’s soul destroying. I earn an ok wage but I haven’t set the world on fire. It only takes the alumni magazine full of high achieving ex-pupils dropping through the door to plummet me into a gloom that lasts for days.

Where did all my potential go? The same place as my young, taut skin, most probably.

MotherOfDragonite Thu 21-Feb-19 15:08:26

Yes, success is about more than just academic intelligence.

It might be worth exploring what the factors are in what you perceive as your lack of success. What career path did you choose? How did you seek (or not seek) advancement? Is there anything else at play that might have affected your success? (ADHD, ASD?)

artisticpiles Thu 21-Feb-19 15:08:59

What would you actually like to do?

Camomila Thu 21-Feb-19 15:09:10

Me too! Though just normal clever rather than Mensa clever.

What do you want to do career wise? Can you afford to retrain? I am retraining which is hard with a toddler and we always end up in our overdraft at the end of the month but I finally feel like I've found what I want to do.

HedgeSparrow Thu 21-Feb-19 15:14:55

I think it is down to personality type and circumstance. I did extremely well at school and have an Oxbridge degree. I didn't come from the background that would imply so didn't have much of an idea about various exciting career paths I could pursue, and my personality type is quite passive. So I pootle along in my job and try to find my intellectual stimuli elsewhere. I have nice colleagues and am happy enough, though I can get bored and in darker moments brood that I could have 'made more of myself'. Whatever that means! Some friends from University have very high powered jobs but some of these make me stressed just thinking about them.

Degustibusnonestdisputandem1 Thu 21-Feb-19 15:15:17

Yes but I have relatively recently found out I have ASD (what was called Aspergers).

HerSymphonyAndSong Thu 21-Feb-19 15:16:53

The thing with passing tests, good exam results and essay marks etc is that that’s not what necessarily translates to the world of work. Regardless of intelligence, good marks just show that you are good at passing that particular kind of assessment. Intelligence and ability may also show in other ways, but they may equally not translate to what gets you ahead (or motivated to get ahead) in particular workplaces or careers. I say this as someone who is doing a second bachelor’s degree (I already have a BA and MA) because I want to retrain but partly also because I love studying and I am motivated by learning difficult things and showing my learning - but rarely are people going to pay you to do just that so in itself it’s not an indicator of how my career is going to go once I have finished

Stinkytoe Thu 21-Feb-19 15:18:58

I was thinking this the other day, the girls who were the highest achievers academically in my school year aren’t hugely successful in the world of work. One is now a childminder, one a police woman, one a SAHM and one a nurse. All perfectly good life choices but not very well rewarded financially (one of them is me!). I don’t know if there’s an issue with finding school/ uni too easy which means you don’t quite develop the same drive as someone who’s worked harder for it.

Fartingisfun Thu 21-Feb-19 15:27:17

This is really interesting. My teacher told my mum he thought I was "retarded"... (Apparently acceptable terminology for parents evenings in the 70s).

I serve on the board for three different organisations now. Sometimes a dim plodder gets there in the end.

I think academics really are no indicator. I still struggle with my times tables.

RolaColaAllTheWay Thu 21-Feb-19 15:29:06

I think it's not uncommon for highly intelligent people to have difficulty in the work place, underachieving is a real problem for people with high IQ's - it is already evident at school (we are going through this with our DD) - being verbally very intelligent almost masks up what you are really made of, not having an opinion is seen as 'she's just shy'. But no, it's about someone with a high IQ pondering all the 'if's' and 'why's' before they want to voice an opinion. By the time they've figured it out, it's too late. 'Learning to learn' is something that really needs attention, if you constantly get high scores at school, but never really had to do anything to get those results, then eventually, later on in life, your achievements stall.
It's so sad to see this over and over. It really should need more attention at school, kids with high IQ's are often overlooked.

HerSymphonyAndSong Thu 21-Feb-19 15:34:24

I don’t think it’s about easily achieving high marks for many people in this situation. I think it’s avout the gratification of those marks not being replicated in the workplace because that’s just not how the working world operates for most people, so you need to find something else that motivates you too

RavenLG Thu 21-Feb-19 15:35:43

* I think self-assurance, a good work ethic and a loud voice tend to bring greater success in the workplace.*

I've never read something more true!

moosesormeece Thu 21-Feb-19 15:40:38

I found school very easy academically and very hard socially. As a result I've found the workplace very tough. Some of my more successful colleagues struggle with written English but because they can talk well and build good relationships they do well.

On top of that I have a really bad work ethic and will always procrastinate, because I usually get away with it in the short term. I'm working on changing but it's not easy to break the habit of a lifetime. (perhaps I ought to get off mumsnet and do something useful!)

kalinkafoxtrot45 Thu 21-Feb-19 15:46:02

I was also a high achiever at school academically but socially awkward and I struggled to manage my time well at uni. It’s taken a long time but I did eventually find a satisfying career, and have worked my way up to a senior position. Those I was at school with who were less academic but more self assured did better quicker, that’s for certain.

pineappletower Thu 21-Feb-19 15:48:12

This thread has articulated something that I've been thinking about for years.

Another perspective, does academic intelligence translate into emotional intelligence? And so while not a career trailblazer, more likely to be happy and good at forming meaningful relationships?

pineappletower Thu 21-Feb-19 15:50:01

I often ponder this wrt starting my own business. I don't have the confidence and am an over thinker, but know two people with a crap business plan and no business acumen who give it a go and shrug off any failure.

EvaHarknessRose Thu 21-Feb-19 15:53:27

You need adopting by an employer who can use your intelligence on specific work, and overlook the areas you are not so good at.

SwimmingJustKeepSwimming Thu 21-Feb-19 15:55:18

Yup, mensa, oxbridge, still find study really easy so if I knew what I wanted to retrain as I probably could academically....

But yes procrastinate tons, wondered about adhd, daughter is asd. I overthink everything and now I'm older have tons of self doubt and questioning.

I cant help think I missed the mark somewhere and at 40 dont know what to jump into. When I'm interested and motivated I'm passionate and give my all to something.

Like another poster above though my family didnt prepare me for work outside uni and I thought it woild somehow just follow. I had absolutely no idea about the world of work or most graduate type careers. I wish Id trained as a psychologist or OT prekids!

Mmmhmmm Thu 21-Feb-19 15:56:34

Yes, I have had the same problem due to MH problems and a very bad childhood. I could have done so much more without those weights, but it is what is.

Singlenotsingle Thu 21-Feb-19 15:59:56

A lot of it depends on likeability, self-confidence, self promotion and gift of the gab, which we've got no control over.

pumpastrotter Thu 21-Feb-19 16:05:37

Academically fantastic and found school a breeze, top sets, awards, uni trips and an IQ of 150+ (don't judge by my posts on here).... I'm the best person to have on a pub quiz team and I will beat anyone at scrabble, but career wise I am a dud. I became really apathetic during my A Levels and have only been in basic admin jobs. Thanks to MH/neuro issues that won't change now, I seem to become dumber and scattier by the year.
A lot of my family have genius level IQs and do well for themselves, it's hard not to compare at times, but we also have a streak of MH problems which go hand in hand.

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