Working with what you have
In a perfect world, you know your strengths. You wake up every day, ready for the world, knowing that you are perfectly positioned to handle whatever life throws you.
But if this is not the case for you, and sometimes you feel like you are fighting to fit a square in a circle shaped hole, grinding down on your individual edges to fit in somewhere you know you don’t necessarily fit in, you may want to revaluate how you’re doing things.
Back in the day
When I first started as a consultant in a global firm, I worried about fitting in because I did not have an MBA. I had been working in banking for 15 years at the time, so I knew my stuff, but instead of an MBA, I chose to do my Masters in Philosophy, Ethics to be specific, and every other consultant seemed to be waltzing around with their MBA’s taped to their forehead.
I was questioning my career choice on a daily basis. After a few months, a partner pulled me aside and said, “Melanie, its great that you don’t have your MBA, that’s not what we need from you, what we need is a person who knows the bank, who has worked in the branch, the call centres and the head offices, someone who knows first hand what everyday banking actually is, and the Philosophy degree, that’s just your preparation for leadership”.
It was like the angels started singing, I had found a home, a niche where I fit, and those things that I thought were negative, were actually positives.
This is what working to your strengths is about, knowing yourself and what you do, what you like to do, and then positioning yourself so that you are working to your strengths.
So what do you need to do?
Do a strengths audit….
What do you do well, what do people say you do well, what can you keep on doing regardless of time passed? What activity makes time fly? What could you do all day long if you were allowed? Note that strengths can be a learned or instinctual, so do not discredit anything.
What skills do you need to support your strengths? You may be dramatic, but do you know how to act? You may love to speak but do you know how to present? There are loads of supplementary skills you can improve on that will help further improve your primary strengths. No job will have you doing what you want to do all the time, and for most careers you will need supplementary skills to help you capitalise on your primary strengths.
Use your strengths and skills…
Which area of your life can you use and display what you do well? What does your job require of you? Look at your performance goals at work; what are you responsible for achieving, and how would your company like you to do it. Take the time to do a matching exercise. Give some thought to how you will make the targets happen with the strengths and skills you have at your disposal.
Mind the gap…
If there is a significant gap, i.e. a key strength that is not being used, perhaps there is an activity you can do outside of work to make use of that skill.
My friend is an Olympic runner, her large corporate job does not allow her to run through the desks at work, so she engages in runs for charity on a regular basis, in partnership with her company. Do not underestimate this step, it is important that you look for ways to use and display your strengths, in order to help them thrive and grow.
Because I was learning to be a good leader, even though passionate communication is great when I want to show my enthusiasm and support. I had to learn the other side of the coin and the art of temperance, the supporting skill of holding back, in order to get the best results from the team, and now I’m a better woman and leader for it.
I haven’t smoothed out all of my rough edges, but I have certainly managed to find a better fitting hole.