Are you smart enough to capitalise on the discovery that you’re not as smart as you’d hoped you were? If you are it could be the key to job satisfaction.
Chances are you are. IQ matters. And it matters because, over time IQ has consistently proved itself to be both reliable and valid. In other words, the results are consistent and they are reliable in predicting certain outcomes and conditions. Importantly, these predictions are actually useful in the real world. For example, high IQ is a predictor of success across a wide range of domains, including the military, school, business and social situations. Educational institutions and employers want to know this stuff. All vital in the quest for job satisfaction.
High IQ is determined by the ability to absorb information, to commit information to memory, to engage in abstract reasoning and to reconstruct ideas into entirely new configurations that have a positive bearing on the real world. The latter condition you might characterise as creativity, typically a lead indicator of intelligence. (Read more about why organisations don’t employ creative people.) Bluntly, there is a correlation between IQ and success – although you may argue, very plausibly, that success is subjective. But if your own definitions of success include words such as status, rank, qualification, esteem and wealth then, chances are, we’re talking about the same thing.
Jordan B Peterson sums it up neatly when he says that you don’t want to be the dumbest person in the room. It is anxiety-provoking and entirely damaging to the furtherment of your career. He also adds that you probably don’t want to be the smartest person either, as it likely indicates that it’s time to look for a different room. A room that is going to challenge you again and where you will find satisfaction in your job.
To avoid either situation, it’s helpful to know where you sit on the IQ spectrum. The ideal place to be is somewhere approaching, but comfortably within, the boundary of your intellectual limits. You are keeping pace, engaged in work, and surrounded by people that keep you mentally stimulated.
Intelligence and personality are two of the principle factors in shaping your attitude towards your work. We talk about personality more in our blog, How to find a job that feels right.
Beyond your range and you are out of your depth; too low and you’re bored and lack challenge.
Furthermore, the significance of IQ solidifies as a result of social constructions. What I mean by this is that the more IQ is used to filter and select, the greater its predictive validity becomes. Imagine that you said that all legal interns must be over six feet tall. In time the legal profession would be populated with a disproportionately high percentage of tall people. It would then follow that tallness would be a reliable predictor of success in the legal profession.
So, to an extent, the fact that society deems IQ to be significant, makes it significant. It cannot be ignored, even though you may believe that your value in the world is attributable to other, more noble, ideals. And I’d agree with you if this were the case.
But that doesn’t change the fact that IQ is important.
If you don’t already know your IQ score, should you take the trouble to find out?
The acquisition of self-knowledge is, to an extent, the traversing of uncharted waters. Ignorance can be the last bastion of hope. For people at the outer reaches of the spectrum, or the bell curve, the revelation that the results of the test would bring are unlikely to be particularly surprising. If you’re not that bright, you probably still possess sufficient insight to know this about yourself. Similarly, if you’re considerably above average intelligence, you’re going to know it.
But for the 70% who fall within the average range (around 80 to 110, with 100 being the average) do you really want to know exactly where you sit? I’d argue that you do. If you’re in the average range, then you’re still smart enough for the information to be of use to you when considering your suitability for your role and career. To describe this crudely, if you’re too smart for your role, or slightly too dumb for your role (or for the career progression to which you aspire, or feel you should aspire), then the possession of this self-knowledge may furnish you with the insight that allows you to make better decisions about the future of your work and career.
If you are suffering from the ‘square peg in round hole’ syndrome then IQ may well be a factor in determining why you feel this way. Job satisfaction is as much about you as it is about the job.
The risk of course is that you discover that you’re not as smart as you thought you were. But it’s a risk worth taking in my estimation. So long as you’re not down in the low 70s, or lower, then you’ve got enough of the grey matter, firing sufficiently well, for you to be able to put this information to good use.
This is not about settling for your comfort zone, selling yourself short or giving up on your dreams. Far from it in in fact. It’s about aligning your capabilities to directions where you are more likely to succeed. If you’re smarter than you thought, then situate yourself such that you are pushing the boundaries of that intellect. If you’re not quite the genius your mum believes you are, then don’t expose yourself to environments where you feel continuously threatened and inadequate. Both are detrimental to your mental health and, in time your physical wellbeing. And it’ll make work hell.
Remember, you can make yourself stronger, thinner, more knowledgeable, more skilful or more courageous, but you can’t make yourself smarter. Men have tried in the past, but the consensus across the fields of psychology and biology is that intellect is a stable trait. You cannot influence it materially, no matter how much you wish that you could.
So my argument is this. The insight that will reveal itself with the knowledge that you’re not quite as clever as you thought you were, is more useful to your career fulfilment and, ultimately, personal contentment than the preservation of a false belief derived through wilful ignorance.
Or, to put it another way, the temporary dent to your ego would be outweighed by the utility of the discovery.
And you never know, you may discover that you’re a genius.