Karen is a graduating senior from a large university in California. She reluctantly studied accounting in school because her parents thought it would be a secure and respectable profession for her to pursue. She completes her degree and begins working for one of the 4 big accounting firms. After about 3 months she realizes she hates her job and feels the work doesn’t play to her strengths. The company is a heads down organization and this doesn’t suit Karen’s bright and bubbly personality. She’s unhappy in this environment but doesn’t know where else to turn. What should Karen do? Finding your way in the world is one of life’s many challenges. It’s compounded by the fact that most people don’t find work that speaks to them and plays to their strengths. How can someone find work that checks both these boxes? In the rest of this article we’ll explore this:
Finding your strengths
The journey of finding your strengths is one that will make your life more meaningful. Although you shouldn’t ignore your weaknesses, you shouldn’t focus solely on them. In order for you to achieve your full potential you must tap into your strengths and use them to help others. I can remember the first time I found out what some of my strengths were.
It was the summer of 2012 and I was gearing up for my final year in college. My friend and I had been throwing the idea of starting a company and it intrigued me. I began the process of incorporation and by the end of the summer I was a full-fledged business owner. I went through the year learning as I went about how to run a business. Although in the end the business didn’t pan out, I found out a lot about myself and defined some of my strengths in the process. What actions can you take to help you define your strengths? In the next section we’ll talk about how to help you narrow your focus.
Consider taking a career and strengths evaluation test
There are many great tests out there that will give you an idea of what you may be good at. These tests include the myer’s briggs and strengths finder. I took the myer’s briggs because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college. The test focused on questions that asked how you aligned with different scenarios. Depending on your answers, you’re given a particular personality profile and shown jobs that line up with your interests and strengths. Although this test is not a perfect evaluation on what you should do, it’s great for getting ideas about what you may want to do. Once you complete the test, pick a few of your top choices and begin exploring opportunities in those areas.
Explore your top options
As I’ve talked about in previous articles, the best way to learn about different opportunities is to reach out to professionals in the industries that you’re interested in. Whether you attend networking events, ask friends for referrals or reach out to them via social media it’s important to have a strategy in place to effectively gather information. I recently gave a presentation at a local SHPE conference about the growing use of LinkedIn as a platform for reaching out to professionals. The LinkedIn platform allows you to reach more people and establish rapport with individuals in different industries. For tips on how to effectively network using LinkedIn, check out my article “Developing a killer networking strategy” (http://thestrongprofessional.com/developing-killer-networking-strategy/). Once you’ve reached out to these professionals and have an idea of what industries speak to you it’s time to start looking for opportunities in your desired industry.
Start working in an industry of interest
When you begin your search for opportunities its important express your interest to others. Making it known that you’re looking for opportunities is the best way of finding one. Begin attending career fairs, reaching out to friends and using LinkedIn. I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve received multiple interview invitations as result of my efforts on LinkedIn. Friends in your desired industry are also great resources to tap into. You’ve already built rapport with these individuals and they have interest in seeing you succeed.
Once you begin receiving invitations to interview, make sure to show up promptly, carry yourself professionally and leave a note at the end of the interview. The final step in the process is to begin working in one of your industries of interest. Be sure to take in as much information as you can and be hungry to learn. Although this may the end of the story for some of you, for many it’s not. What happens if you find that the opportunity doesn’t suit you or that you’ve had a great experience but feel it’s time to move on?
Don’t be afraid to change direction
Not everyone will do the same thing for their entire lives. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker will hold TEN different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow. If you find that what you’re doing isn’t cutting it anymore there is no shame in finding other opportunities. Learning to leverage your previous experience will help you transition into something new and exciting. As previously stated, tap into your network and begin doing research into other opportunities. Speak to your previous experience and what unique prospective you can bring to the new organization. Everyone has something to bring to the table so take some time to define what that is for you. Your new adventure may be just around the corner.
Bringing it all together
Karen decided to take both the myer’s briggs and strengths finders tests to help her define her strengths and see what industries best suited her. Her results indicated that she most aligned with opportunities in the sales, recruiting and finance industries. After doing some research, Karen began focusing her efforts on finding recruiting opportunities. She chose to pursue recruiting because she loved engaging with new people, she had an eye for spotting talent and the job played to her bubbly personality.
Karen always loved helping people so she decided that the healthcare industry would be a great place for her to make her mark. She began reaching out to friends and tapping into her network on LinkedIn to find opportunities. As a result of her efforts she was able to land a job at a local medical recruiting firm that places medical professionals all over the country. She is now excited about her new career prospects and feels that she’s finally found a place where she can use her strengths to the fullest.
Defining your strengths and finding opportunities that play to them is a challenging proposition. The process will require some effort on your part but it’s well worth it. Life is too short to follow a profession you hate so take the first step towards achieving a fulfilling profession. Do you guys have any suggestions on how to find your strengths and weaknesses? I would love to hear from you.
My book recommendation for this article is “Now, Discover your strengths” by Marcus Buckingham. Not only does this book provide you with valuable information about how to define your strengths, it also comes with a strength finders test that you can take yourself. I have provided the link to the book below: