Use Your Strengths (not your weaknesses)!
What are your strengths? Do you know how to find your them?
Most of us are very good at identifying our weaknesses. After all, we've been told about our weaknesses through the educational system and also through performance reviews on the job. Any time we do a job which isn't a good match for our skills, we stare face-to-face with our weaknesses.
Weaknesses are easy to identify. We know what we do badly. But learning more about your weaknesses does nothing to help you feel competent and realize your highest potential.
To work at our highest potential we need to do what we do best. And so it's vitally important that we find our strengths.
Exactly what is a strength? They can be a variety of things but in general these are things for which you display a natural, almost effortless capability or competence. They are things we enjoy doing.
Strengths are your natural gifts and abilities. These gifts and abilities might be invisible to you. Since they come naturally to you, you typically think "everyone can do this" and so you take them for granted. Other people usually recognize your gifts and abilities easier than you do.
Maybe you're good with numbers, or good with people, or good with children. Maybe you're a problem solver, an inventor or an organizer. Anything that comes naturally to you may be a gift.
Strengths might also be gained from education or work experience where we've learned something useful, practical or productive. If this knowledge is above and beyond what other people around you know about, and it's knowledge you enjoy sharing, then it's a strength.
We all gain experience from life. It can be from a good experience (adventure travel) or a bad experience (caring for a spouse through a major disease). If you have had life experience where you have gained knowledge, wisdom, or other gifts you can share with others, then these are also your strengths.
There's only one rule when you're thinking about a creative career change: you have to enjoy using the gift or ability in order for it to be a strength. This is very important!
For example, someone once told me that I'm "good at doing documentation". That might have been nice and flattering except for one thing - I hate doing documentation with a passion! So, documentation is not my strength - even though someone else thinks it is.
What if you don't know your your natural gifts? How can you find them?
Here are some options. Some are free and the others have a minimal cost. I suggest you use more than one of these options to get a full picture to give you something to work with:
Step 1. Make a list of any natural gifts or abilities that you think you have. Think about all the jobs you've enjoyed and what aspects you enjoyed doing most and felt most competent doing. What are some things people are always asking you to do that you enjoy doing? What kinds of things do you see other people doing badly that you know you can easily fix? Work on this list for a few days. Keep the list at work and continue it at home until you feel it's complete. Cost: free. Have you answered the question? If not, go to the next step.
Step 2. Ask 10 people who depend upon you at work to tell you 1 thing that they think you do best. Ask them to be very specific. For example, if they say you're "organized" that's not specific enough. You're looking for specific feedback such as "knows how to take chaos, define the underlying problem and come up with a solution".
Step 3. Once you get the feedback from the 10 people, compare it against your own list to find overlap and new insights. Also, remember that just because someone says you're good at something doesn't make it a strength. You also need to enjoy using that gift. Cost: free.
Step 4. Use personality testing to help you find your strengths. Here are 3 that I have found helpful in my work and are relatively inexpensive:
- ManagementByStrengths (MBS).
- Management By Strengths (MBS).
Cost $24 USD online.
- StrengthsFinder by Buckingham & Clifton.
Cost: $10 USD online.
- Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Cost $10 - $150 depending on format.
Whether you use personality testing, your own knowledge about yourself, or that or your peers, or all of the above, you want some balanced insight so that you can decide the strengths you are most interested in using in your work.
Remember that a strength is something that you are naturally gifted at doing or knowledgeable about - and that you enjoy using. If you keep the focus on what you're good at and enjoy - you're certain to move your work in a direction where you can feel confident and competent.
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