Are you having trouble decided which careers to pursue? Are you looking to find more meaning in your life?
By understanding your personal and professional strengths, you’ll have a much easier time finding people who value you, jobs that pay well, and satisfaction from your life work. It’s never too late to start thinking about what you’re good at and how you can use your talents to give back to the world.
1. What topics or situations do people often ask you for advice?
People who call, text, or hang out usually want to talk about something. What is it? Why do they want to talk?
Repeated conversations mean something. These are areas where people look up to you—YOU are the expert. In these instances, people actively seek out your words and experiences because they have a lot of value. Think about that for a moment. People come to you because they genuinely want to hear what you have to say. Strength, strength, strength!
Think about your typical responses in these conversations:
- Identify common conversation themes
- Look for patterns in people’s behaviors
- Categorize the type of advice that you give
- Characterize the role that you play in conversations
By coming to you with their problems, these friends, family, or coworkers are signifying demand in the market for your skills and experience. Identify ways to expand your skillset beyond your regular social circle. How you can share your valuable advice with a larger audience?
2. What offers do you get?
Offers can include projects, promotions, or volunteer opportunities at work, home, or school. Which ones have you received?
Whatever the type of offer, what matters is that people think you’re qualified. Whether it’s a paid gig or not, you came to mind when it came to getting the work done. This is especially true if you were the first person whom they called. A tap on the shoulder is a tap on your strengths—pretty straightforward.
Remember that your “strengths” are mostly determined by how other people see you and not by how you see yourself. For instance, does your mom offer you something in return for troubleshooting a technology problem? A simple task like this may not seem like much to you, but if someone offered something for your help or time, then they see value in your contributions.
Instead of just taking the offer at face value, dissect it to identify what strengths people see in you. What are people really asking you to do? Are they hiring you for your reliability, your trustworthiness, your leadership experience, or your tech skills? By knowing your underlying strengths, you can apply them elsewhere and find your next offer.
Once you get that first offer, think about how you can get more similar ones. Not every offer will be given to you like this first one. The first offer is your sign from the universe; the remaining offers come from your own motivation. Go get it!
3. What do you get complimented on or thanked for?
Compliments sometimes come as questions, such as “how’d you get so fast?” or “where’d you learn to do that?” The compliment is buried, but it’s there. Stay on the lookout for them.
Most people don’t offer sincere praise that often, so really look at what they said. Sometimes, their words may seem more like a neutral observation or a passing comment, but if they bothered to say something, then there’s likely more meaning behind it. You have a skill, a personality trait, or experience that was worth mentioning.
If someone thanked or complimented you, then take this positive reinforcement as a cue to continue what you’re doing. You’re on the right track! How can you proactively offer your services or assistance to someone else before they even ask? Sometimes you just need to sell yourself a bit.
4. What aspects of your life do people usually want to know more about?
Consider where people are steering the conversation, because this is intentional. People are showing interest in this area.
There are a hundred other things that people could ask you about. So, if there’s a project, job, or idea that people usually ask follow-up questions about, then they see the connection between you and your goal. They’re likely curious because they think your project, job, or idea is going to be good. (Cue that strength).
Every conversation that we have with people is like a mini market research project. People are giving you real-time feedback about what you’re currently working on. Questions are usually good, so make note of them. One person’s interest may be reflective of larger demand in the market for this same topic.
In future conversations, proactively offer these details that people usually ask you about. You already know that people are interested, so frame the conversation around how you want to be seen. What’s your next step? Are you in the market for a new full-time job? Are you trying to start your own business?
Share your next step or goal with people, and you may be surprised to find who can get you there. People opened the door for your with their curiosity and questions, so now you need to walk through it by giving them some clarity and action items.
5. Look for themes
Work can seem so different than school, and both work and school can feel like worlds away from your personal life. In reality, you’re the same person with the same skillset in all of these environments. Connect the dots.
To find where your strengths overlap, imagine running your own business. What would you do? Hobbies, talents, side hustles, active and passive income streams, personal connections—how would they all come together? Weave them together as if you were creating a business brand. How would you be different than your competition? What would you name this business?
This business is you, and you’re actually describing yourself. Your individual skills are part of your wholistic strengths. Thinking of yourself as a brand and a business may help you put it all together.
The more connections you draw around yourself, the clearer you become. Define your personal brand, and then drive it forward by communicating your interests and goals. Once you know how to connect the dots within yourself, people will know how to connect opportunities with you.
6. Find the right fit
Be the right person, in the right time, at the right place. Strengths can seem like weaknesses simply because you’re in the wrong area.
Consider occupational stereotypes. Stereotypes won’t define your career but going against them will make it more challenging. Think of a stereotypical attorney (aggressive, insensitive, logical, argumentative) versus a counselor (kind, compassionate, attentive, listener). A soft-spoken counselor would probably make a terrible attorney, while a passive attorney would probably struggle to present the facts and win a case.
It’s the same with any corporate job. Are you an awesomely talented employee working for a company that refuses to invest in employees? Your talents may make you a threat to weak leadership, so they’ll view you as a subpar employee even if you’re doing great work. You can keep banging your head against the wall trying to earn their respect and trust, or you can go somewhere else that’s desperate to hire a motivated employee just like you.
Remember, strengths are “strengths” only if they’re wanted.
7. What makes you unique?
A million other people may be good at Excel, but are they also good at public speaking? Skills in themselves may not be unique, but certain combinations of skills and personal experiences will set you apart.
We’re so used to fitting into the mold of cookie-cutter job descriptions that we accept advice to downplay diverse our skill sets and present ourselves as narrow experts. This may be necessary for some 9-5 jobs. However, people who change the world don’t do so by ignoring chunks of their talent and going about life with one arm tied behind their back.
Being a jack of all trades or having multiple talents isn’t bad. Bringing a fresh perspective and diverse experiences isn’t bad. In fact, harnessing these diverse skills will be your most powerful asset yet. The Movers and The Shakers in life usually aren’t one-trick ponies; they’re people who can mold their life experiences and world problems into something powerful and new.
Keep looking for the place or opportunity that lets you shine. If someone isn’t going to give it you, then you might need to make it yourself. There may not be a perfect and premade fit for your strengths just yet, but you can forge your own path.
Draw a Venn diagram of yourself, rank your skills, and write down your dreams. This perfect combination is the roadmap to your next step.