I have a cousin who was a skilled, talented artist in high school. Whenever he was painting a portrait, he would be playing his favorite rock band and be singing and dancing along … all at the same time!
One thing led to another, and his “artistic skills flourished into an entrepreneurial side business” and he started selling his portraits to supermarket chains!
Then it was time for college and his parents insisted on him choosing a career like “building engineering” that promised a stable income with lots of growth potentials vs. that of an entrepreneurial artist.
So, he dropped his childhood love and work in “drawing, painting and the arts” and became a college educated “Building Engineer”.
However, as the years rolled by, his passion, motivation and drive in all things termed work seemed to dry up and he started struggling with basic things that you probably take for granted like … “finding or keeping a job“.
So, what went wrong? My cousin is still struggling with his career in “building engineering” today though he was a successful teenager / young adult as an artist?
I feel strongly that my cousin missed his real life work because of a lack of understanding of “the strengths vs. weaknesses principle” or orient his career around his natural passion, strengths and motivations.
That is why I am dedicating the rest of this article to helping you, identify and work with your strengths instead of your weaknesses!
My friend, career success does not come from arbitrary college degrees or certifications (no matter how many) … except if those qualifications actually enhance your natural talents and abilities!
Knowing what you’re really good at doing vs. what you struggle with is key to evaluating or choosing your authentic work, vocation or career.
So, without much ado, here are three (3) simple exercise that will help you identify your strengths vs. your weaknesses…
How Do You Identify Strengths vs. Weaknesses?
Your strengths are talents or abilities “you naturally excel at“. They are dominant thinking, feeling and doing patterns that come naturally for you. So, you grow stronger and feel more energized when you spend time working on your strengths.
On the other hand, weaknesses seem to drain you and no matter how much you work at them, you don’t feel energized or improve much.
Because a weakness when utilized leaves your feeling like you were swimming against the current!
Another way to think of this is the answer to the question … how much do you enjoy being at your company’s parties?
If you enjoy being at corporate parties and you hang around until the lights are almost switched off on you then you are probably an extrovert in your natural habitat.
If on the other hand, you want to leave the party before everyone else is ready to leave or when you get home, you feel drained of energy … you are probably an introvert and parties are not your favorite thing!
For the rest of the article, I want you to do this … get a pen and paper and list your responses to the questions, ideas and tips presented.
Identify The Activities You Enjoy Doing
What are the activities and tasks that you feel deeply immersed-in, involved-in, or deeply engaged with when you perform them at home or work?
This is in contrast to activities that you feel dis-engaged, distracted or disinterested with (your weaknesses) when you perform them?
Don’t take too long to analyze these activities, instead, write down you initial and automatic response to the activity as you think about it
Focus on activities that you feel happy about undertaking and / or leave you with a feeling of satisfaction.
Make a list of these activities using verbs to describe your strengths such as planning, writing, developing, analyzing. A sentence in your list may look like … I feel fulfilled when I write a program or I am deeply immersed when I am painting.
Step Away From Your Job Title For A Moment
Our job titles do not always accurately identify all that we can do, are doing right now or are capable of doing.
Rather, our “job titles” creates in us, the type of tunnel vision that imprisons our creativity and further entraps our talents. So, for this exercise, “visualize your career without the entrapment of your job title“!
Having done that. identify and list past tasks and projects you excelled at, enjoyed doing, received compliments or positive feedback for, amazed others, received awards or recognition for.
Make a list of these tasks or projects using sentences like … “nominated for the “best programmer award” because of a data capturing program that I wrote in ’08”.
Read this article: “Is Tunnel Vision Killing My Career” on the dangers of “Tunnel Vision”
Evaluate Your Skills, Experience & Background
As a career coach, I advice lots of folks some with multiple post-graduate degrees and of course certifications. I also know individuals who are successful at mid-level management, senior management and even C-Level / Executive positions without a college degree!
In all these positions, what really matters is the individual’s ability to perform on the job. Performance matters because the prevailing wisdom in the Information Technology (IT) industry, is that … “your past performance is the best predictor of your future performance“!
Some ignore this wisdom and put their focus on: “exams, certifications, college degrees, etc” which they hope to put on their resume and therefore … “magically guarantee their success (or so they think)“!
But don’t you believe that junk! Success is a product of your performance, “passion / motivation / drive” and plain, unvarnished hard-work!
Now, am I saying that you are only qualified for jobs / careers that you performed well in the past?
No, certainly not! What I am saying is that you should evaluate your work / career for patterns of excellence because those provide you with insights on how to achieve future career success!
So, for this exercise, I will show you how to evaluate your skills, experience and background (education, qualification, certifications) for evidence of strong performance.
What have you received praise for? List every activity that you’ve performed and for which you received praise.
Now, answer the question: “What are the skills used in each of these activities?” Where you drawing, analyzing data, speaking in front of a group, etc.?
What tests / certifications have you taken? List every test / certification you’ve taken in the past.
Now, answer the question: “Which of these tests / certifications can you use to perform a task or get some work done excellently / successfully?”.
Which skills / strengths are you ignoring? Many times, we are disconnected from the significance of our skills / strengths and here are a few examples to illustrate the point:
As a customer service rep., you employ great communication, negotiation and customer service skills, yet you feel disqualified from applying to business analyst positions because in your mind, the paper qualifications you lack out-weigh the communication skills you will bring to the BA position.
As a quality assurance personnel, you employ fantastic, code analysis and scripting skills, yet you feel disqualified from applying to computer programmer positions because in your mind, your lack of a formal computer science college degree out-weighs your natural ability to think logically which in reality is key to success in programming positions.
As a receptionist , you spend the time in between phone calls creating power point presentations, preparing charts and graphs and other key reports for your management, yet you are convinced that becoming a data analyst is a pipe dream because of a lack of formal certifications!
“Now, Go Put Your Strengths to Work:” Make a list of all the activities you identified in these exercise as your strengths and then start using them on a daily basis!Go Put Your Strengths to Work
Marcus Buckingham author of “Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance” has this to say: Research data show that most people do not come close to making full use of their assets at work — in fact, only 17 percent of the workforce believe they use all of their strengths on the job “
Now you know another success principle: “truly sustainable success is founded upon identifying your strengths, developing them to the point of excellence and then putting each of them to work”” … “keep it not to yourself“, rather, “use it to help or serve others” and you will discover the secret of career success!