The concept of highest and best use (HBU) originated with economists who conceptualized the idea of maximum productivity.

One of the earliest citations of the term was in the assessment and valuation of real estate. HBU always refers to a use that will produce the highest value, regardless of its actual current use.

But how does this apply to me and helping me in finding a job today? Stay with me on this one.

What Does Highest and Best Use Really Mean?

HBU applies to you in a direct and meaningful way. In our careers, we often unconsciously seek to find our HBU. Successful employers will attempt to facilitate having their entire team in their HBU. This fosters maximum productivity while managing employee retention and satisfaction levels. It is productivity nirvana and company stability rolled into a neat little success formula.

So how do we get to this optimal place and what must happen to get there? HBU is a combination of a few key factors. It can be seen as the confluence of our skills with our passions, married to a vehicle through which we can exercise them.

For example, Steve Jobs wasn’t a formally educated individual. Very little in his early life suggested that he would become the Da Vinci of our time. Yet, if his HBU were closely examined, it would have easily predicted this occurrence. Jobs was passionate about quality, design and user experience. His skills in calligraphy, artistry, and human consumption were in place as a young man. His introduction to early personal computing became the perfect vehicle to leverage these skills and passions to become prescient in what was then an emerging industry.

Let’s revisit the components of HBU to see how you can begin to identify and get to yours.

Passions

All of us have passions. They are easily identifiable for some and less apparent for others. Don’t be concerned if nothing compelling comes to mind. You have some. They may be dormant or undiscovered. A little self-analysis may reveal yours to you.

Have you ever known others who take up “hobbies” such as painting or learning to play an instrument later in life? Often these hobbies become passions that would have remained undiscovered.

I am not suggesting that learning to sing will get you hired. Rather, exploration of what you’re sincerely interested in is a critical component as to what profession and position you should seek moving forward.

Discovering your passion may be as simple as identifying where your interests lie. If you are more visual than verbal, look at positions in digital media or graphic arts for example. Refrain from looking for a sales or customer care position.

Remember when you subscribed to the newspaper or went to an actual bookstore? If you still do these things, think about what section of the paper you read first and so on. If you pick up the arts and leisure section first, and never read the business section of the paper, perhaps a career in business isn’t for you, but something in arts or entertainment is.

At a bookstore, which section do you stand in front of first? If you find yourself looking at automobile or home deco magazines, you have passions and most likely skills that would flourish in those industries. Start there with your search. You don’t have to return to what you’re used to doing if you were miserable and suffered setbacks doing it.

Skills

As with passions, each of us has skills. The key is in recognizing that many of them are transferable. If you have always been a salesperson, you probably can sell anything. Think about it. If you’ve been selling software, but are mostly ambivalent about software, think about how you could succeed selling something that you’re passionate about. Cars or homes for example.

Make a list of your prominent skills and how you can apply them. Perhaps you’re an accountant who is great with numbers but would like to work with “big data.” It’s a new field but many of the same relative skill sets are necessary.

Seek counsel from any means available to determine the skills people in a field in which you’re interested possess. You’ll find that your passion alone will carry you through the discovery stage of this exercise.

The Vehicle

Now that you’ve identified your primary passions and skill sets, the equation comes together in finding the proper vehicle to use and feed them both. This will optimize your productivity and value, while putting you in your highest and best use. This part of the equation is the job search portion.

Being aware of your primary skill sets and their options for applicability makes the search easier. You can easily discuss them with hiring managers, recruiters, connectors – anyone. Understanding where your passions live serves to identify industries, verticals, sectors and eventually companies to target. The net you cast can be smaller and more focused.

Ultimately, if you allow this for yourself, you will align the three factors and land a position that not only makes you highly productive, but leads to promotions, raises and the big one – personal happiness with your work.

What are your passions? If you are trying to find a job in your 60s, how are you turning those qualities into an advantage? What vehicles have you identified? Please join the conversation.

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