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Create a Career You Love: Use Your Strengths Every Day

Create a Career You Love: Use Your Strengths Every Day

It is well researched and documented that using your strengths every day means that you are happier and more confident with higher levels of self-esteem, energy and vitality.  Is that how you currently feel about your working life?  If not, perhaps it is time for you to look at your personal strengths and analyse where you could start using them in your career.

Why are your career and strengths not aligned?

We quite often go into our careers at a time in life when we don’t have a lot of self-awareness.  We might know what we are good (or not good) at in school but how helpful is it to create a career we love based upon good grades in foreign languages, music and maths (my academic subjects of relative prowess).  How did that signpost me towards coaching?

It’s true that, when we are younger, we tend to gravitate towards activities that we are good at (often encouraged by supportive parents) but that does not mean that we necessarily enjoy these things.  For example, you need good grades, a good grasp of the English language and a good memory to be a lawyer.  I can’t tell you how many unhappy lawyers I’ve met.  A great maths brain does not necessarily mean that you will enjoy accountancy, banking or actuarial science.

Therefore, we need to align the things we are good at with the things that we enjoy and that are aligned to our values.  This is the path to feeling energised and invigorated at work.

A personal example

Over the years, I have been through many different strengths assessments: Strengths Profile, Strengthscope, Clifton Strengths Finder, VIA Strengths, among others.  My strengths consistently fall within three key areas:

  • People (strengths such as Compassion, Empathy, Relationship / Rapport Building, Service)
  • Positive attitude (strengths such as Enthusiasm, Optimism, Unconditionality)
  • Love of learning (strengths such as Learning, Growth)

I can track these strengths back to a young age and believe that they would not be dissimilar when I was 23 and coming into the “career market” for the first time.

However, I got my first job because I could ski.  And that job was a PA in a City firm.  Nothing to do with skiing.  Believe it or not, the director that interviewed me was so enthused that I’d just completed a skiing season that he more or less offered me the job on the spot!  Looking back to that job, I probably wasn’t even using a quarter of my strengths. 

Fast-forward to now and I have created a career that is perfectly in line with my strengths.  I use my people-related strengths every day with my clients, associates and colleagues.  My enthusiasm and optimism help to drive my small business and support others.  My love of learning is satisfied as I work in a field that requires me to be educated and up-to-date.

And yes, I feel energised and invigorated by my career.  I want other people to feel that way too.

How can you engage with your strengths?

Step One: reconnect with what your strengths are.  Identify them.  There are several ways of doing this.  You can do an online assessment which costs anything from free to £100+.  You can take a few minutes to list 20 things you’re good at on a piece of paper.  You can ask your friends, family members and colleagues.  See if you can come up with an exhaustive list.

Step Two: start to look at “themes” within your strengths and see if you can identify 5 – 10 Signature Strengths that feel like the real you.

Step Three: really think about how you are using your strengths in your current role.  Take your list of Signature Strengths and mark them all on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of how much you use them (1 is not at all and 10 is every day).

Step Four: think about how to use your strengths more each day.  Take each of your lower scoring strengths and think about how you can shift them up a gear.  Don’t try to move from 3 to 10 though – think about how to move from 3 to 4, then to 5, using incremental steps.

It’s a great idea to remeasure your strengths from time to time to make sure that they’re still the same and to be constantly thinking about how you can tweak your work to make it more aligned with your strengths.

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