There’s no lack of well-intentioned career advice and inspirational social media posts out there encouraging you to combine “what you love” and “what you’re good at” to be successful. There’s also no shortage of popular quotes telling you the key to winning in business is to, “Focus on your strengths, forget your weaknesses!” Well.. what if you don’t know what those strengths are?
While there are no guarantees when it comes to success, getting clarity on your strengths has positive benefits professionally and personally. From helping you narrow down the opportunities that are right (and wrong) to increasing your overall self-awareness, taking the time to discover your strengths is completely worth it.
How To Find Your Strengths
I am all about pattern recognition. Here are six ways to discover your strengths and help you pinpoint where you shine.
Write Down Your Skills
I’m a big fan of starting where you are and then working out from there. I want you to start by making a list of at least 25 skills you have. A skill can be related to industry knowledge, tools, technology, interpersonal skills – include it! I want you to list both hard skills, which are quantifiable skills that can be taught (ie. You’re a whiz with Microsoft Excel) and soft skills, which are more subjective and usually related to people skills (ie. leadership and teamwork). It doesn’t matter where you acquired these skills either – work, school, hobbies – it’s all fair game.
I want you to keep in mind, this exercise is not about what you like. A skill isn’t necessarily a strength, but each skill can help you uncover a strength. The way you have applied your skills in the past might not have been your passion, but under different circumstances, you might actually enjoy using them.
Pay Attention To What Gets You Excited
A strength is going to be something that you are naturally inclined to be great at, which for most people means you probably enjoy exercising it.
No matter how you break it down, self-awareness and checking in with yourself is important when it comes to putting yourself in a positions that make you feel empowered. Most people don’t do it and wonder why they are dissatisfied with where they are professionally and personally. That’s not going to happen to you – you’re going to be more mindful starting now.
Go through that list of skills and notice how each of them makes you feel. Pull out or highlight the ones that you actually like doing. Are you actually excited to use any of those skills? Are there any common themes? (Spoiler: there usually are).
Then, throughout the day for the next week, pay attention to what actually gets you excited. Write those moments down. By the end of the week, there will likely be some patterns.
Review The Moments You’ve Succeeded
Success means something different to everyone which is why this is a great exercise to do to tap into your self-awareness and find those strengths. Set time aside to sit and reflect on moments you’ve been “successful.” Write down any wins that come to mind. Note the various time you’ve felt accomplished or did amazing work. The more you write down, the more you’ll start to recall other moments. Are there any common themes or patterns?
Ask The People That Know You Best (& A Few That Don’t)
This one is always huge. A huge part of self-awareness is being able to see ourselves as others see us. Ask three to five of the people who know you best what they see as your greatest strengths. If you’re ready to really step up, you can also use this time to ask for any weaknesses. If you go this route, make sure to prepare anyone you ask that it is safe to be honest with you (and actually follow through on that!).
Next, find three to five people who are not as close to you (but you are still comfortable with), who will have a different context on you to ask. Your best friend might have a different opinion than a former colleague you keep in touch with. You want to make sure there’s some diversity in the backgrounds of the people you ask so you can really feel confident if there are similar answers. What are the common patterns?
Take a Test
This is a piece of advice I give with a caveat: no assessment test is perfect. However, I do think that some tests can be helpful in self discovery. I know many entrepreneurs and companies who use these to help in the hiring and team building process. A few of the more popular ones include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Kolbe A Index, and the book StrengthsFinders 2.0. I personally think these are fun to do (I’ve taken all three) and I’ve also found them useful in adding to my arsenal of overall strength pattern recognition. I’d recommend everyone check out the StrengthsFinders 2.0 book to learn not only more about where you strengths are, but also how to work better with others and how others can work better with you.
Work With an Objective Professional
Sometimes when we analyze ourselves, we are just too close to see clearly, so it’s helpful to have an objective set of eyes (ie. not you and not someone close to you). Having an objective professional, whose job it is to help you to really see yourself clearly by doing what they do, can be invaluable.
For example, what I do in personal branding is all about pattern recognition (it’s one of my strengths!). It’s figuring out what makes you unique and highlighting your strengths so you achieve the results you want. When I work one-on-one or in my courses or workshops, I ask a lot of questions because I need to see the patterns emerging – It’s a personal deep dive. I am one example, but this professional could be someone who does anything from business consulting to life coaching to PR to a psychologist. That relationship might even help you realize potential you didn’t know you had.
Self discovery is an ongoing process. There really is opportunity every day to be discovering your strengths, noticing what you’re good at, seeing those patterns, and using them to have the life you want to lead.
Full disclosure: the link to the book in this post is an affiliate link that take you to Amazon.com. I will be compensated (at no extra cost to you) should you choose to purchase anything from these links. Thank you in advance (I appreciate you!) and please note that the prices change and vary over time due to Amazon marketplace changes.