Take a minute and think about a recent experience when you were at your best. Close your eyes and remember the experience in detail – see yourself in it. What are three words to describe how you felt? Write them down. Having asked this question to many people, there seem to be a handful of common words that come up: energized, happy, hopeful, optimistic, creative, excited, successful, engaged, just to name a few. The words themselves are full of vitality, and when clients say them, there is a sparkle in their eyes.
Putting your attention on specific experiences and noticing how you felt is a powerful way to uncover what it looks and feels like when you’re at your best, and gives you information about the activities/skills that bring this out. This is about uncovering your natural strengths. Why is this important for individuals in career transition? Tapping into your strengths is critical to maximizing your performance – people do their best work when they’re energized. Furthermore, we are much more engaging and persuasive when there is life behind our words. Sharing your strengths with people you meet is critical to your job search. Whether it’s in a networking conversation or an interview, the more energized you feel about your work and skills, the more of an impact you are sure to make.
We all have skills, tools, abilities that we’ve learned, and it’s important to know what those are. But it’s also critical to separate what we do well, from what we LOVE to do. You can be very good at something that sucks the life out of you. When you are in a career transition, it is a good time to take stock of your skills and experience, and clarify what strengths you want to bring with you as you move forward. It goes without saying, given that you are seeking employment, that your strengths need to align with what an organization is looking for; however, start first with yourself and then look at where the alignment is. Why start with you? Because that’s where the energy is.
Identify a handful of ‘peak’ work experiences – projects, tasks, situations, where you were at your best. Take each one apart looking for what energized you and what skills you used. See if you can find 3-4 different strengths from the collection of experiences that capture you at your best and what you love to do. For example – solving complex problems, leading teams, developing innovative solutions, knowledge sharing, etc.
While it may not always be the case, it’s fair to assume that what you love to do goes hand in hand with what you do well. We know that operating from our strengths improves engagement and performance. Look then at specific organizations and roles of interest, and see what they are looking for. Look for the alignment. See what language they use. Don’t be afraid to adopt their language as long as it fits with what you know to be your strengths.
The more you do to identify your core strengths and embody them, the easier it will be to weed out roles that aren’t a fit, and to passionately and effectively sell yourself for roles that are a fit. You can’t be good at everything, so use your energy as a guide to uncover your core strengths. And then share those with your network. It will make a difference, after all, energy is contagious!