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Gifted & Talented People: Characteristics & Your Career Choices

gifted and talented people

Gifted & Talented People: Characteristics & Your Career Choices

Have you ever wondered if you are gifted?  What does it mean and what are the tell-tale signs of Gifted and Talented People. Before making career decisions, regardless of who you are, it’s a question worth considering.

There are many gifted and talented people working in corporations, institutions and small business that don’t even know that their gifted and have never been identified as such. The result can be unlocked potential and dissatisfied careers because of this lack of vital self- knowledge. It is only in the last 10 years that I have seen the identification of giftedness gather pace in Australian schools. Mind you not all schools are doing their part. To know any information about yourself can be almighty powerful but to a gifted person this self-knowledge can be priceless when it comes to leaving the school gate and making career choices over your lifetime.


Giftedness is not a new concept, it has been around for thousands of years. Because of this history, it too inherits some typical stereotyping which doesn’t reflect current research. All gifted persons are normally thought to be geniuses, academically brilliant, able to solve all their own problems and they supposedly can choose any career pathway they want. Yes, some are geniuses and yes, some are academically brilliant but you don’t need to be either one if you are gifted in other areas. As to solving your own problems and you can have any career you want, nothing could be further from the truth.

Gifted adults and gifted children can be one of the most misunderstood group in our society. For those who have been identified as gifted, the extreme pressure and career expectations placed on them can be suffocating. Take our gifted sportsmen & women competing in the Winter Olympics as an example. The flip side to this, is that if you have no knowledge of being gifted, you can lead a turbulent meaningless career life, never understanding why.

Related:  Career Change after the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games for a Gifted Elite Athlete

So let me give you an insight into what it’s like to be amongst gifted adults or gifted children. To be gifted, you have to have the potential and natural ability in at least one domain where it places you among the top 10% of your age peers according to Canadian psychologist Gagne. Those domains can either be:

Intellectual – examples include high levels of reasoning and problem solving with words, general intelligence or visual spatial reasoning where you think and reason in 3D pictures,

Creative – examples include solving problems with inventions and new ideas, vivid imaginations to think outside or beyond the box and production of original arts,

Social– examples include highly developed empathy for other people, well developed leadership skills and a keen sense of justice,

Perceptual – examples include being able to distinguish subtle changes in sound, in taste, in sight, smell and touch,

Physical– examples include having powerful muscular strength, power, speed and endurance. Also you can have great coordination and agility than the norm.

The examples I have given above are by no means comprehensive, but you can start to get the picture that the concept is quite broad. It can cover a number of individuals across many cultures and across many socio-economic groups.  Some individuals may be gifted in more than one domain, for example, you may have an exceptional ability to play basketball as well as exceptional ability in learning languages and creatively writing fantasy short stories. The combinations can be quite extraordinary.

While individuals can have a wealth of raw natural abilities in many domains, many gifts are never turned into talents. Talent can appear in the career fields of academia, science and technology, the arts, social service, sales and administration, business operations, games, sports and athletics. What stands between the gift and the talent will be the persons environmental circumstances, developmental learning, fixed or growth mindset, personality traits, goal management and the roll of the dice-chance.

Related: Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset-How it can influence your Career Life?

To put names and faces to the concept, the following is a list of gifted people from our history and contemporary names that will get you thinking:

Gifted Adults in History

Aristotle (384-322 BC)-  philosopher, scientist and rhetorician

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)- master artist, architect, engineer, inventor, mathematician, musician and writer

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)-inventor and businessman

Fred Astaire (1899-1987)- film and broad way  stage dancer, choreographer, singer, musician and actor

Walt Disney (1901-1966)- entrepreneur, animator, cartoonist, producer and director

Contemporary Gifted Adults

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)-singer, dancer, song writer, businessman and philanthropist

Elvis Presley (1935-1977)- singer, musician and actor

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)- entrepreneur, marketer and inventor

Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)– greatest heavyweight boxer

J K Rowling– award winning novelist, researcher and philanthropist

Tiger Woods– champion professional golfer, golf course designer and philanthropist

Ian Thorpe– champion swimmer, actor and philanthropist

Heston Blumenthal– Michelin starred self- taught chef

Matt Groening– creator of the Simpsons, cartoonist, screenwriter, producer, animator and comedian

While these gifted adults have excelled in their particular domains, being gifted makes their quest for career fulfilment more intense than the norm.

Typical Gifted Characteristics

Some typical characteristics that gifted adults and children have include:

  • Vivid imagination
  • Can get bored quickly and need to be challenged daily
  • Can be very driven
  • Fear of failure
  • Rapid learning rate, grasp concepts quickly
  • Extremely curious, always ask lots of questions
  • Can feel very intense emotions
  • High levels of sensitivity
  • Oversensitive to criticism
  • Can feel the odd one out
  • Prone to perfectionism and can be self-critical
  • Advanced sense of humour
  • Dislike of authority and rules, are quite independent
  • Early social and moral concern
  • A constant need to be mentally stimulated or stimulated by their area of interest.
  • Can be easily misunderstood by others

You don’t need to have all characteristics but one or two may indeed show that you too may be gifted.

Gifted people always feel the need to fit within a system whether it is school, institutions or organisations. When choosing careers, gifted adults often compromise their own self-identity and choose work environments that are clearly not suited to their characteristics and behaviours.  I’ve seen individuals burning out, losing a sense of who they are and the development of depression.

Related: How Gifted Adults Think

If you are serious about finding the fulfilment and satisfaction from the work direction you choose, the question “Am I gifted?” may be another one of those keys that can unlock your potential and steer you onwards and upwards. Imagine the possibilities!

I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Reach out to my Contact Us Page if you would like to have an initial free chat about how I can help you in your gifted career journey.

12 comments on “Gifted & Talented People: Characteristics & Your Career Choices
  1. mj voorhes on said:

    is this worth a tear? could this really be the answer to everything? how can i tell my wife, i think ill just show her. if only id seen this years ago.
    it is truly amazing when a complete stranger can describe exactly how i
    feel. overwhelmed at the moment. excuse my french, but my god thank you.

  2. LaShondria Thomas on said:

    Thank you so much for your post. I had two kids who are gifted, and by me learning more about what gifted was I started to see myself in some of those descriptions. Growing up I was never acknowledged as being gifted but I always knew that some how I was different.

    • Gina Bell on said:

      It’s my absolute pleasure. Yes, they say the apple does not fall far from the tree. Gifted children often have Gifted parents. I am pleased this has given you more self awareness. Being different is fantastic particularly in these times that require us to be innovative, creative and thinking outside the box.

  3. Sherna D'Mello on said:

    Hi there,

    Thank you for posting an informative and interesting article.

    I recently realised I’m gifted. I’ve always thought to be a mixture of both- creative and artistic. However, in this article I guess I would be creative and perceptual.

    I liked the entire article.
    Thank you.

    • Gina Bell on said:

      Wonderful Sherna, pleased you received value from the article. I appreciate your feedback, Gina

  4. Lorelei on said:

    Thanks so much for this informative article. I have been trying to find out more about the signs of giftedness in adults and the neurological differences between said and typical adults. After a lot of research, I think that I am gifted (and quite likely have a gifted child); but to can be hard to explore the idea with peers etc.

    • Gina Bell on said:

      I am pleased you found this article informative. It’s true that gifted parents have gifted children, they do say the apple does not fall far from the tree! Today, often parents are finding out their gifted because their children are being identified as gifted in the education system. This is wonderful for the parent because often they have felt misunderstood all their lives and finally they can have another part of the puzzle put in place.

  5. Rachel on said:

    Oh, my. I finally understand what the issue has been all these years. I am gifted. What a revelation! Thank you for the detailed descriptions; it’s very important for me to know the “why” of it. BTW – your list? I think there is only one characteristic listed that does not apply to me. I have so often been misunderstood, but mystified as to why it was happening. Finally, I have some answers. Thank you.

    • Gina Bell on said:

      Fantastic Rachel! I am pleased that you finally got some answers. It’s important that you don’t change who you are and celebrate your uniqueness. You have a lot to contribute to our world. In terms of the list, you don’t need to satisfy every characteristic. They are just a list of typical characteristics we find across the gifted community.

      • Rachel on said:

        Thank you, Gina. I was amazed that I checked all the points on the list as applicable to me except for one (really just the second half of one of them, the other half was applicable). My boss recently asked me if I was gifted (How’d she know??). That’s what got me to research the topic and find your article. Now, so much of my life makes sense. I will try to celebrate who I am from this point forward – in the past I’d been thinking I was just a misfit, “missing a chip (or two)”, or just a weirdo. Thanks so much for the validation. It comes at a time when I really need it.

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